Updated: Amy Pickle, Mining and Energy Commission chairwoman and lead hearing officer in charge of producing the final hearing report, said the MEC will consider all comments submitted as part of the rule making.
"As with most state rule makings, we will review and collate the comments in order to develop a hearing officer's report," Pickle wrote in an email Friday afternoon. "The report will include recommendations on response to the comments and any recommended changes to the rules. The Mining and Energy Commission will make decisions on whether to approve or amend the draft rules in accordance with the Administrative Procedure Act."
Time is running out for the public to submit comments on the Mining and Energy Commission’s draft rules for implementing fracking in North Carolina. After September 30, the MEC will finalize the rules to bring fracking—which could endanger the public health and the environment
—to the state as early as next year.
On Friday morning, the North Carolina League of Conservation Voters delivered 10,000 comments collected from residents across the state to the MEC’s offices in Raleigh. The comments echo those made at public hearings in Raleigh and Sanford
last month where North Carolinians voiced concerns about air and water pollution, forced pooling, lax enforcement policies and the loss of local governments’ authority.
Rep. Duane Hall, D-Wake, voted against the fast-tracking of fracking
during this summer’s short legislative session because his district’s drinking water supply could be threatened by targeted drilling in Chatham County. He said groundwater has been contaminated in other states whose well setbacks from water sources were more stringent than what is being proposed for North Carolina.
Hall said he acknowledges that fracking can be done safely but said “the risks are real and the task before the Mining and Energy Commission is a serious and difficult one.” He commended the Commission for recommending changes in the rules to the Legislature on forced pooling and authorizing impact fees to protect local communities.
The Legislature has not yet acted on these recommendations and Hall urged the MEC to wait to issue permits on pooling until after the General Assembly convenes and rules on when and how pooling can occur. He said he hopes the Legislature will follow-up on impact fees in 2015 and that the MEC will force North Carolina drilling wells to meet the EPA’s 2015 air quality standards.
NCLCV field director Aiden Graham called on the MEC officials, appointed experts, to ensure that legislators have sufficient information for regulating fracking. “Don’t cut corners in order to entice in an industry that will leave us sick and empty-handed,” Graham said. “Strengthen the rules. Only allow fracking if it can be done safely and to the benefit of everyone.”
Melvin Montford, executive director of the North Carolina chapter of the A. Phillip Randolph Institute— a group of African American trade unionists and community activists— said his organization “is drawn to the fracking issue because for us, fracking is a violation of environmental justice in the communities that we serve.”
“Fracking creates health care disparities,” Montford said. “This is a very important issue in the black community.”