RALEIGH: State officials listen to public comment on fracking in - CBS 5 - KPHO

State officials hear from both sides of NC fracking debate

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People rallying outside ahead of Wednesday's public comment hearing on fracking. People rallying outside ahead of Wednesday's public comment hearing on fracking.
RALEIGH, N.C. -

Voices from both sides of the fracking debate had the opportunity to be heard Wednesday at North Carolina State University's McKimmon Center, with many rising to speak about concerns about the start of fracking in the state.

About three fourths of those who spoke raised concerns about fracking. Linda Spallone, who opposes fracking, said there are already warnings about what could happen.

"I'm very concerned about contamination. We proved with the Dan River coal ash spill we can't do anything about it and we can't even get them to clean it up," Spallone said.

Four hours were set aside for people to speak before the Mining and Energy Commission -- a committee under the umbrella of the N.C. Division of Environment and Natural Resources -- about hydraulic fracturing, more commonly known as fracking.

Wednesday's meeting and public input session was just one of four scheduled in North Carolina. The state Mining and Energy Commission plans to hold other meetings in Sanford, Reidsville and Cullowhee.

In June, Gov. Pat McCrory signed the Energy Modernization Act, clearing the way for permits to be issued for hydraulic fracturing -- or fracking -- as soon as next spring.

Fracking is a method of harvesting natural gas that involves injecting mixtures of water, sand gravel or other chemicals to break apart underground rocks to allow oil and gas to escape. McCrory has pushed to get the state involved in new ways to create energy and has long been a proponent of fracking.

"We have great opportunities here and we're encouraging the state to take advantage of those," said David McGowan, with the N.C. Petroleum Council.

Critics, though say the process involves putting chemicals into the ground that could have long-term consequences on the state's drinking water.

There are more than 100 fracking safety rules the commission is considering, and some of those rules could be modified based on public comments at Wednesday's meeting.

Some of opponents of fracking claim there is no safe way to regulate fracking and they want to see it banned in our state. Others are worried about the permanent pollution of ground water.

The Town of Creedmoor voted to ban fracking but lost the battle when the state approved it. Creedmoor's mayor said he plans to push for tighter water quality rules.

"My concerns are water supplies, withdrawal of water from the ground and ground water," Creedmoor Mayor Darryl Moss said. "We don't know what's going into the ground so we have waste water disposal to be concerned about."

"The amount of radioactivity in fracking wastewater is dramatically underestimated," said Elizabeth Evans, a member of the group, the Raging Grannies, opposed to the process.

Algenon Cash with the N.C. Energy Forum supports the practice.

"[We've] already put in place the safeguards that are needed to protect our natural resources," he said. "North Carolina can expand energy development in a way that protects and preserves our communities."

Opponents in the crowd booed as he said those words. Supporters have also talked about the jobs fracking will bring to North Carolina, although some have disputed how many jobs fracking will really mean for North Carolina.

Fracking is expected to be focused on a few counties like Moore, Lee and parts of Orange.

The commission will decide which rules need to be modified after the four meetings and then present them to the General Assembly in January.

WNCN's Beau Minnick and The Associated Press Contributed to this report.

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