RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The new commission got down to work on Thursday to start writing rules on how natural gas fracking is performed in North Carolina and how well neighbors and the environment are protected.
The Mining and Energy Commission created by state lawmakers this year held its first orientation meeting to learn about likely requirements to comply with state public information, ethics, and financial disclosure laws.
The panel's task is balancing what gas drillers are allowed to do while protecting public health, property, current users of water and land, promote jobs, and encourage a state oil and gas industry, state environmental agency's No. 2 administrator said.
"If it strikes you that it may be difficult to balance all of those things, it will be. But that is really the story of environmental regulation," said Robin Smith, assistant secretary of the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources. "A bunch of what goes on in environmental regulation is trying to balance out the competing uses of a resource."
For example, fracking uses a lot of water, Smith said, so the panel will have to figure out how water available near potential deposits could be available while also preserving supplies already in use.
The 12-member panel and state employees working with it will develop new rules on a process called horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing that frees untapped underground deposits of oil and gas, or fracking.
The fracking process involves injecting a drilled well with chemicals, water and sand at high pressure in order to crack shale rock and release natural gas. The wells can run horizontally, diagonally or vertically.
Geologists have estimated a 40-year supply of natural gas is concentrated around Lee, Moore and Chatham counties. But the U.S. Geological Survey estimated this summer that North Carolina has enough natural gas trapped in shale rock to supply the state for less than six years.