RALEIGH – Following a public comment period in early fall, the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources has revised the outline for a study of the potential environmental and economic impacts of shale gas exploration and development in North Carolina.
Session Law 2011-276 directed DENR to study the issue of oil and gas exploration in the state and to specifically focus on the use of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing to extract shale gas. An internal DENR working group, including staff from the divisions of Air Quality, Water Quality, Land Resources, Water Resources and Waste Management, put together a draft plan for the study. The public was invited to provide comments on this draft outline during a public comment period and at a public meeting held in October to gather input from the public on any additional issues the study needs to address. The changes made to the outline over the last few weeks and reflected in the new plan of study include both additions suggested by the public and additional detail developed by DENR and other study participants.
Changes made included:
- Adding a section specifically dealing with recommendations to the study, to address comments received that the study should add a consideration of whether or not hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, should be permitted under state law. This section will also include recommendations for baseline data collection and any further research necessary;
- Adding subsections on potential public health impacts in various sections of the study;
- Adding a section on the potential impacts to the existing local economy (for instance, agriculture and tourism) based on public comments;
- Expanding the section on stormwater management to include potential impacts of oil and gas production to surface waters;
- Expanding the air quality section to examine flaring and greenhouse gas emissions; and
- Adding a section on potential impacts to North Carolina energy consumers.
The revised plan of study has been added to an NCDENR website that provides an overview of the shale gas issue; describe current regulations associated with shale gas exploration; explain how the department will study the issue (and provide study results when complete); and guide the public in how to receive updates on the study, as well as how to provide comment on the issue. This website can be found by visiting DENR’s home page – http://www.ncdenr.gov – and clicking on the “Shale Gas” tab near the center of the page.