Stokes Co. residents concerned over fracking legislation

STOKES COUNTY, N.C. — A bill allowing permits for fracking in North Carolina passed in the Senate and House this week. Now, Gov. Pat McCrory’s signature is all that is needed to make it law.

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, involves breaking through shale rock to free trapped natural gas.
Permits could be issued by May 2015 if the bill becomes law.

Myron Mitchell, a Walnut Cove resident, says his land on Watts Road could potentially be ground zero for hydraulic fracking. Mitchell worries how it’s done could lead to water and air contamination issues for years to come.

“I just never thought that I would have to deal with an issue like this on land that I bought, paid for and wanted to pass to my kids,” said Mitchell. His grandfather originally owned and cleared his 85 acres of land.

State lawmakers who pushed the bill through argue gas exploration would create jobs and make the United States more energy independent.

But others wonder, at what cost?

“Most of the people making the laws, if not all, will never be affected. Their farm won’t be destroyed. Their home won’t be destroyed,” said Mitchell.

Geologists say several North Carolina counties could have reserves of shale gas including Chatham, Lee and Moore counties.

“There’s some smaller basins, the Dan River Basin in the north part of the state hits Stokes and Rockingham County,” said Cassie Gavin, with the North Carolina Chapter of the Sierra Club, a grassroots environmental organization.

Gavin says legislators have still not addressed whether land owners can be forced into leases with oil and gas companies. However, some residents say they already feel helpless.

“One issue is if they do the fracking procedure, inject the chemicals, they may not get any gas at all. But the damage is done. It’s done for multiple generations and we can’t fix it,” said Mitchell.

Gavin says the Mining and Energy Commission are still developing rules for the oil and gas industries in North Carolina. There will be an opportunity for public comment on the rules this summer.

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