State gives lip service to fracking concerns

To the Editor:

The Johnny-come-lately public hearing on fracking scheduled by the N.C. Mining and Energy Commission (MEC) at Western Carolina University on Sept. 12 appears to be nothing more than a public relations move to appease those Western Carolina residents whose opposition to the practice has finally been acknowledged in Raleigh.  

This hearing, like numerous other after-the-fact gambits by politicians, will essentially do nothing to reverse state law on fracking which was enacted by the Raleigh crowd without a millisecond of public input. While some local jurisdictions, including town boards, are standing up to Raleigh by passing anti-fracking resolutions for environmental reasons, these are merely symbolic gestures trumped by state law. Bottom line: the state legislature has basically emasculated local governments. 

MEC chairman Jim Womack said recently that the Western Carolina hearing was scheduled “to give voice to the people of the west.” How noble of the MEC to allow citizens of the region to voice their concerns over fracking when, in the end, it will make little or no difference. In fairness, the hearings may have some small impact on the draft oil and gas rulebook now in place thanks to Raleigh, but a little tweaking here and there doesn’t change the basic game. 

Mr. Womack went on to state that local concerns, while “meaningful” are still only “symbolic” and that passage of anti-fracking resolutions is “probably not a good thing” because it might offend the industry, heaven forbid. Apparently, it doesn’t matter if the industry is offensive to the people. Amazingly, he then suggested that voters should note those local public officials objecting to the fracking and “go the ballot box armed with that information.”

So, let me try to understand this conundrum. Mr. Womack wants voters to possibly punish elected local officials who oppose fracking, but it is perfectly fine for the state legislature to ram through this legislation with no prior public input. In other words, the state has spoken (Big Brother), and any local yokels who oppose Big Brother can be voted out. Here’s a suggestion. Have people go to the ballot box armed with the knowledge that their state representative(s) supported and passed fracking legislation in record time without public input. What about that scenario, Mr. Womack? 

Perhaps the public comments next month at WCU will have a positive impact on how fracking is rolled out in North Carolina. After all, the three-minute comments will be recorded by the MEC. Let’s just hope the recording isn’t erased once it’s played in the sequestered back rooms of the state legislature.

Gerald Soud

Rabun Gap, Ga.

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