Accountability-Central.com AC Alert for May 22, 2012 Hot Topic: The Fracking Debate Moves South

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Accountability-Central.com AC Alert for May 22, 2012 Hot Topic: The Fracking Debate Moves South

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Wednesday, May 23, 2012 - 4:45pm

Over the past several years, a healthy debate has evolved between advocates and opponents of "fracking," the hydraulic fracturing process that involves injecting liquids into shale deposits deep underground. The intent of the process is to hydraulically fracture rock formations and release new supplies of oil and gas. The process is accompanied by “horizontal drilling,” a relatively new process that enables drillers to get to shale deposits in a direction other than straight down from the drilling rig.

The majority of the controversy to date has been focused on the inland areas of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and nearby states along the Appalachian Mountains ridge. Now the debate has begun to shift south of the Mason-Dixon Line.

Here's the news from farther south along the Appalachians:  "North Carolina's debate over fracking has resumed with the advance of a bill that would legalize the natural gas mining method within two years in this state, giving agency officials until 2014 to come up with provisions to protect the public health and the environment.

"The bill, sponsored by Republican Sen. Bob Rucho of Mecklenburg County, is controversial even within the Republican-dominated legislature. It will compete for votes against a more moderate approach expected from Sen. Mitch Gillespie, a McDowell County Republican who favors greater public safeguards. Some say the technology is so dangerous and risky it should never be allowed in this state.

"Fracking, a shorthand for hydraulic fracturing, is illegal in North Carolina but some are pushing for legalization to access a cheap cleaner-burning domestic fuel as an alternative to imported oil and dirty coal. Fracking refers to pumping several million gallons of water and chemicals underground at high pressure to flush out natural gas trapped in prehistoric shale rock formations.

"The state is believed to contain underground reserves of shale gas concentrated around Lee, Moore and Chatham counties and extending about 150 miles through the state’s midsection. The extent of the energy reserve remains speculative, but the U.S. Geological Survey is expected to issue more research this year that could determine if North Carolina is sitting atop a potential energy gold mine. The fracking legislation is scheduled for a vote this summer." 

There is important news for you in the link to the full story in the region's major daily, The Charlotte Observer:  (Source: Charlotte Observer)

Clearly, the question of whether fracking should be permitted in the Tar Heel State is likely to come to a head during the next few weeks.

Meanwhile, on a national level, questions continue to be raised about the potential impact of fracking on human and animal health as well as agricultural products. Oil and gas industry leaders have responded, advocating the growing need for domestic oil and gas resources, and the jobs that fracking will create or preserve.

Energy industry experts point out that done properly, fracking should not affect water tables as the shale levels are deep beneath the ground; also, most chemicals used are not toxic waste.  There are pro and con arguments about these positions. The public debate on fracking in the USA now involves state regulatory officials, members of congress and other elected officials, public health professionals, environmentalists, academics, civil society organization leaders, industry oil and gas executives.

Recognizing the importance of this issue, AC editors early on created a special Hot Topic Section: The Truth About Fracking.

This Hot Topic focus has been steadily expanding as energy companies step up efforts to find new sources on US lands, mindful of events such as the cut-off of Middle East or other foreign oil that would put pressure on all sides as the nation’s leaders in the public and private sectors seek alternative energy sources.

The fracking debate is expanding to more parts of the US and decisions by public officials promise to be both historic and controversial.

Here are some recent excerpts from our Hot Topic section:

Vermont Fracking Ban: Green Mountain State Is First In U.S. To Restrict Gas Drilling Technique
(Source: Huffington Post) Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin has signed into law the nation's first ban on a hotly-debated natural gas drilling technique that involves blasting chemical-laced water deep into the ground. The ban may be largely symbolic, though, because there is believed to be little to no natural gas or oil beneath the surface in Vermont.

Major Push to Clean Up Shale Gas Fracking as 55 Top Investors with $ 1 trillion in assets weigh in
(Source: Boston Common Asset Management) Boston Common Asset Management, the Investor Environmental Health Network (IEHN) and the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) have announced that 55 major investment organizations and institutional investors with nearly US$1 trillion in assets under management have united to support “best practices” for the fracking of shale gas.  Spearheaded by the trio of sustainable investing and religious investing groups, the coalition seeking industry action includes investment organizations focused on Environmental, Social and Governance (“ESG”) factors and those that are not.

U.S. shale boom, Europe glut alter energy landscape
(Source: Reuters) The shale energy boom in North America will lead to an industrial revival in the region while Europe could benefit from a conventional gas glut that will help decouple it from surging global oil prices, according to industry leaders and analysts.

Gas drillers wrangle over NY limitations; opponents argue for more limits or ban on fracking
(Source: Washington Post) With all the restrictions in proposed state regulations and local bans, gas companies say about half of their lease holdings in the lucrative Marcellus Shale region in New York State will be off-limits or inaccessible to drilling if the state gives the green light to developers this year. A coalition of environmental groups is pushing for a complete ban on shale gas drilling, but the industry and landowners hoping to lease to drillers are working to lift some of the restrictions and halt the movement toward local bans.

BHP To Assess Value Of Shale Assets, Cut Gas Drilling
(Source: Bloomberg) BHP plans to decide at the end of next month whether to write down the value of the U.S. shale gas assets it acquired for US$20 billion, while cutting back on drilling natural gas wells until prices recover.

U.S. proposes new rules for fracking on federal lands
(Source: Reuters) The Obama Administration has unveiled long-awaited rules to bolster oversight on public lands of oil and natural gas drilling using fracking technology that has ushered in a boom in drilling but also triggered environmental protests.

This is just a sampling of the information in our Accountability-Central.com Alert. Go here for the full text of this alert, and more information on Sustainability, and other Accountability related topics.