A coalition of 17 organizations based in Western North Carolina is calling for a public hearing somewhere in the western part of the state on new oil and gas rules being developed the N.C. Mining and Energy Commission.
Three public hearings are scheduled for August in Raleigh, Sanford and Reidsville, but these locations are four or more hours away from WNC. However, the western region could see the impacts of fracking, pending the results of a study of the area’s natural gas potential, slated to begin this summer.
“Now that seven counties in the west are being tested for potential shale gas, Western N. C. could be directly affected by these rules, and we demand a chance to participate in the public hearings,” said Garrett Lagan, of Swain County.
The letter points out that the Mining and Energy Commission was charged with developing regulations for hydraulic fracturing for the entire state, and WNC residents should not be left out of the opportunity for public input to protect their communities.
Geologic testing in WNC is in its preliminary stages, and results will not be known before the end of 2015. The rules are set to go into effect before that time, and these hearings are the only public hearings the commission is planning.
“Even if exploration in the western counties proves that there will not be hydraulic fracturing in the mountains, these rules still affect the state of the whole, and we still have right to have our voices heard,” said Sally Morgan of Clean Water for North Carolina.
Groups that signed the letter include Appalachian Voices, The Canary Coalition, Clean Water for N.C., Coalition Against Fracking in WNC, Coalition Against Fracking (Swain County), Environmental and Conservation Organization, Frack Free Madison, Greenpeace N.C., League of Women Voters of Macon County, Mountain People’s Assembly, Mountain Voices Alliance, People Advocating Real Conservancy, People For Clean Mountains, Positive Changes Youth Ministries, Western N.C. Sierra Club, Pisgah Group of the Sierra Club, and the Western North Carolina Alliance.