by Billy Ball
As expected, Chatham County commissioners approved a two-year moratorium on natural gas drilling, better known as fracking, last night.
The two-year moratorium would seem to flout a 2012 state law forbidding local government bans on drilling, but county leaders said Tuesday that the state law does not go so far as to prevent temporary moratoriums.
The new ordinance, which you can read here, argues that drilling is a threat to the "health safety and welfare of residents, neighborhoods, environment and natural features."
Fracking supporters say the drilling will bring jobs and commerce. But environmental groups and many residents in the most likely drilling destinations say the concerns—water contamination, increased seismic activity, gargantuan water consumption—outweigh the benefits.
"It's all about the water," said Chatham Board of Commissioners Chairman Jim Crawford in a statement. Drilling operations consume millions of gallons of water at a time when the county is expecting rapid growth.
“We have to be sure that we will have enough water as well as safe, clean drinking water," Crawford said. “We also need to protect our farms and agribusinesses, which represent 38 percent of our income countywide. They should have the first claim on any increased water use.”
County leaders also cited concerns about groundwater contamination, road wear and increased amounts of wastewater.
Expect swift reciprocation from the N.C. General Assembly. GOP leaders have been outspoken in their belief that local regulations should not block drilling operations.