RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Hundreds attended a public meeting Wednesday in Raleigh on rules for hydraulic fracturing drilling in North Carolina, with many voicing opposition and some even breaking into anti-fracking songs at the podium.
Nearly 400 people filled an auditorium at North Carolina State University for the first of four meetings during a comment period that lasts until the end of September. The state Mining and Energy Commission will analyze comments and consider revisions to the rules, which then must undergo a fiscal review before legislators have the final say.
Most speakers opposed fracking because they fear toxic chemicals could escape the wells, and they took aim at specific provisions in the more than 100 proposed rules. The commission is also accepting electronically submitted comments.
"The citizens of North Carolina are looking for you to protect us," Susan McClanahan of Chapel Hill told the members of the energy commission presiding over the meeting. She argued companies should be required to set aside money to clean up potential spills for a longer period than the rules require, and that the period for them to retain records should be extended.
Gov. Pat McCrory signed a law this summer clearing the way for permits to be issued as soon as next spring for the drilling method that involves injecting water, sand and chemicals to break apart underground rocks so oil and gas can escape.
Scientists believe pockets of natural gas exist in layers of shale under Chatham, Lee and Moore counties southwest of Raleigh, but there are disputes about how much is there.
Before Wednesday's hearing, about 70 protesters rallied on the grass outside the auditorium, with many holding anti-fracking signs and wearing shirts with anti-drilling slogans. Several police officers on horses were among the law enforcement at the venue.
Inside, a lectern was set on either side of a stage where three members of the Mining and Energy Commission sat. Each speaker was given three minutes at the microphone.
Some spoke in favor of the drilling and drew boos from the crowd.
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