North Carolina once again has turned down federal money that could be used for a worthwhile purpose.
The state recently returned a $222,595 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to pay for water quality monitoring in areas where hydraulic fracturing – or fracking – could be undertaken in the future. The state also informed the EPA that it doesn’t want a $359,710 grant to establish a long-term wetlands monitoring network in its coastal plains and Piedmont areas.
We have long been cautiously optimistic about the potential benefits of fracking, which involves pumping water and chemicals at high pressure into a drilled well to break apart underground shale rock in order to release natural gas previously unavailable through traditional extraction methods.
And while the jury is still out about the actual amount of natural gas that can be obtained this way from underneath North Carolina’s soil, the possibility exists that fracking could bring an economic boost and increased energy resources to our state – if it is done prudently and safely.
That, however, has not been the case so far. Lawmakers rushed through legislation authorizing fracking without consulting much more than representatives of the industry that stands to make a great deal of money if fracking is successful in North Carolina. The N.C. Mining and Energy Commission that lawmakers established to regulate fracking is comprised mostly of similar industry representatives.
Fracking has a mixed record so far in the country, at best. States that moved cautiously and established common-sense and vigilant safeguards on fracking have been able to harvest considerable amounts of natural gas. But states that let energy companies drill wherever and however they wanted have experienced serious negative environmental consequences.
North Carolina must not repeat the latter’s mistakes.