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Macon residents take sides on fracking

Fracking flooded the public comments section of the Macon County commissioners’ most recent meeting. As the meeting opened, people unable to find a seat lined the back of the room and spilled out the doorway. 

“I love it when it’s filled up,” said Commissioner Paul Higdon. “I think it’s good for the public to be involved.”

Both proponents and opponents of hydraulic fracturing, the method of fossil fuel extraction known as fracking, came out in force, each asking Macon County commissioners to consider a resolution endorsing their point of view.

“Fracking will be an election issue in Macon County in November,” said Susan Ervin, a Macon County Planning Board member and fracking opponent. “Voters will expect their candidates to take a strong position.”

“Since fracking has moved into the political realm, I ask the Republican majority on this board to take the bold step of issuing a resolution in support of fracking,” said Vic Drummond, leader of Macon County’s FreedomWorks chapter. 

At this point, commissioners are ready for neither of those options.

“That will be discussed later on down the road,” said Commissioner Ronnie Beale. “There are still a lot more thoughts to be gathered, but the fact is it’s already been signed into law.”


What they said

“It is true that hydraulic fracturing is a relatively new technology. What’s puzzling is why it’s been done so poorly and has caused so many problems in extracting natural gas.”

—John Gallden, retired organizer of environmental compliance organization 

“They’re economically booming. Pennsylvania is booming. Texas is booming. And it’s a direct result of fracking. I don’t know if the opposition is looking to take us back to the Stone Age. We’re on our way.”

—Don Swanson, Macon FreedomWorks founder

“In the long-term we are better off with sustainable energy such as solar and wind. I know a little bit about corrosion and water and chemistry, and it scares me what the potential could be when they start fracking.”

—Larry Stenger, retired from water and wastewater system installation 

“Most of our money and income come from tourism. People love it here. What’s the benefit of fracking for us? What’s the benefit of natural gas if our water is polluted and our air is polluted? I don’t see a benefit.”

—Belinda Childs, Macon County landowner

“The industry is heavily regulated with strict precaution and shale gas will give us more jobs and affordable energy.”

—Sonya Thompson, Macon County resident

“I’m a natural skeptic when I see a group with an agenda produce a documentary. I wonder how much of the truth they represented. But if only 10 percent of what they say [in Gasland] is true, why would you invite this into your community?”

—John Hagdorn, Franklin resident

“It seems strange to me that people who tend to be very much defenders of private property rights, some of them are supporting something which stands to infringe on our private property rights, and by the same token people who are very conservative about government spending are supporting exploratory activities that will be financed with government money.”

—Bill McLarney, Macon County resident



Bryson City passes anti-fracking resolution 

Bryson City has joined the growing list of local governments taking a position against hydraulic fracturing, a method of fossil fuel extraction known as fracking. The town board voted unanimously Aug. 18 to pass a resolution opposing the practice. 

“We believe it’s dangerous, and we wanted our opinion on the record,” said Mayor Tom Sutton. 

The measure is a symbolic one, as the state law allowing fracking prevents local government from opting out. 

Jackson County commissioners are likely to discuss passing a similar resolution at an upcoming work session. If they did so, that would bring the growing list of local resolutions to seven. 

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