Sept. 11, 2014. This Friday, Sept. 12, local and regional grassroots groups will hold a press conference prior to the final public hearing on the proposed N.C. Oil and Gas Rules. The press conference and rally starts at 4:15 p.m., while the Mining and Energy Commission’s Public Hearing on Draft Oil and Gas Rules takes place from 5 to 9 p.m.
The hearing takes place at Western Carolina University’s Ramsey Center and the conference takes place on a patio adjacent to the center.
Mayor Harry Baughn of Hayesville, whose town passed a resolution opposing gas exploration in Hayesville and Clay County, will speak about the need for stronger rules to govern the fracking industry, and the need for local governments to protect their residents, infrastructure, economies and resources.
“Water is a precious commodity that we must protect at all costs,” says Mayor Baughn. “At a minimum, there should be a 1-mile radius in which the companies are responsible for the appearance of any of the fracking chemicals, and a substantial length of time for which they remain responsible in the future.”
Susan Leading Fox, a multi-generational Appalachian Native American who worked for over 20 years with Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in various capacities, including serving as Deputy of the Health & Medical Division under Chief Hicks’ administration, will speak on the social impacts of the fracking industry. “WNC cannot afford the irrefutable social impact fracking brings to communities by increased crime, prostitution, drug trafficking, and alcohol use. This creates burdens to our local law enforcement and social services. Irreversible denigration of communities is occurring all across the nation for the extraction of shale gas which is available in finite quantities. This is unacceptable,” she says.
Other speakers include Ron Gulla, a Pennsylvania farmer who has lived with the gas industry firsthand, Amy Adams, a former DENR supervisor, and Denise DerGarabedian, founder of the grassroots group Coalition Against Fracking in WNC.
The N.C. General Assembly lifted the state’s moratorium on “fracking” or “hydraulic fracturing”– a method of extracting natural gas that involves injecting high-pressure fluids thousands of feet deep with a mixture of water, sand and chemicals – this year, and permitting can begin as soon as the rules under review during this hearing are finalized, possibly as soon as early 2015 in parts of the N.C. Piedmont.
This last of four public hearings on the proposed rules to govern fracking promises a large public turnout and plenty of strong opinions. An estimated total of 1200 people have turned out to the three previous hearings in Raleigh, Sanford, and Reidsville. The Cullowhee hearing was not originally on the list, but was scheduled thanks to several requests for a hearing in the mountains by citizens, local government officials, state legislators, and advocacy groups.
Recent announcements of potential delays in gas testing have not slowed the momentum of fracking opponents. “There is no guarantee that the state won’t turn around and prioritize money toward testing in the mountains as early as next year,” added Katie Hicks of Clean Water for North Carolina.
“If you’re concerned about water quality, climate change, property rights, and/or corporate control of our state government regulatory agencies, then you should be concerned about fracking and the rules that are being addressed at the Mining and Energy Commission’s public hearing in Cullowhee on September 12,” said Avram Friedman, Executive Director of the Canary Coalition.
“Fracking does not make sense for North Carolina. There is so little natural gas in N.C., and the industry would create so few jobs, that it’s just not worth the substantial risk to our health, water, air, and way of life,” said Sarah Kellogg with Appalachian Voices.
“They promised us the strongest rules in the nation back in 2012, but these fall far short of many other states’ regulations,” said Donna Dupree of the Jackson County Coalition Against Fracking. “It’s time for the Mining and Energy Commission to admit that these rules protect industry, not the people of our state!”
Local and regional residents are expected to register to give 3 minute comments, and those who want to speak are encouraged to arrive an hour ahead in order to sign up to speak on a first-come, first-serve basis. The Canary Coalition will live-stream the hearing athttp://www.ustream.tv/channel/canarycoalitionlive. Written comments may also be submitted at the hearing or may be submitted by mail or email bySeptember 30th (oil&[email protected], or Mining & Energy Commission, ATTN: Oil and Gas Program, 1612 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-1612).
Confirmed speakers for press conference:
Susan Leading Fox
About Appalachian Voices:
Appalachian Voices is an award-winning, environmental non-profit committed to protecting the land, air and water of the central and southern Appalachian region, focusing on reducing coal’s impact on the region and advancing our vision for a cleaner energy future.
About the Canary Coalition:
The members of the Canary Coalition are working together to take the lead in raising public awareness of our shared environmental crisis—generating a groundswell of public support to achieve sustainability of place and planet through proactive education, public activism, and collaboration toward practical solutions.
About Clean Water for North Carolina:
Clean Water for NC works to promote clean, safe water and environments and empowered, just communities for all North Carolinians through community organizing, education, advocacy and technical assistance, with offices in Asheville and Durham, NC.
About the Coalition Against Fracking in Western North Carolina:
CAFWNC works to connect the western counties of NC in a united voice against any part of the horizontal fracking industry taking place in the Appalachian mountains of North Carolina. We seek to educate and empower local citizens to combat fracking interests by spreading the truth about this destructive and devastating practice that threatens our air, water, land, and way of life. We aim to create a group working together to support each other and to protect the incredible precious heritage of the Appalachian region on which our future and that of future generations depends. We stand in solidarity with citizens across North Carolina, and believe that fracking should be permanently banned across the state. CAFWNC is a non-partisan, non-discriminatory coalition of citizen volunteers concerned about the potential impacts of the first extractive industry in NC and the detrimental effects on our communities and future.
About Jackson County Coalition Against Fracking:
The mission of the Jackson County Coalition Against Fracking is to educate the citizens of Jackson County about fracking and the health, environmental, and community hazards it causes, and to encourage citizens to make their views heard by their elected officials and to vote for officials who would ban fracking in North Carolina.
About Swain County Coalition Against Fracking:
Swain County Coalition Against Fracking is a grassroots community organization of concerned citizens who want to fight against fracking in NC.
About Western North Carolina Alliance:
Western North Carolina Alliance empowers citizens to be advocates for livable communities and the natural environment of Western North Carolina.
About WNC Frack Free:
WNC Frack Free consists of Mountain People helping to protect clean water.