RALEIGH, N.C. -- Nearly 600 people on Wednesday showed up at North Carolina State's McKimmon Center to voice their opinions about fracking to the state's Mining and Energy Commission for the first time since Gov. Pat McCrory signed the "fracking bill" into law in January.
The day started with a peaceful protest outside the center, where more than 100 people spoke and sang out against fracking in North Carolina.
"People should be frightened, and more importantly, angry that this is happening in our state," said Caroline Hansley, Field Organizer for Greenpeace.
Fracking, formally known as hydraulic fracturing, is defined as "a process in which fractures in rocks below the earth's surface are opened and widened by injecting chemicals and liquids at high pressure: used especially to extract natural gas or oil."
Those against the process argue that not only is it dangerous to the environment, but also regulations on fracking would be too lenient.
"We've never had an extractive process in North Carolina and we have to do it right," Hansley said. "At this pace that we're going it doesn't seem like that's possible."
Many argue that dangerous chemicals released during fracking would easily make their way into the water supply.
"If a hose comes loose, 200 feet, that water's gonna be in that stream before you can even blink your eye," said Marvin Woll of Raleigh.
Instead, many offered alternatives such as wind and solar power.
"I'm standing under a hot sun right now. I can feel the energy beating down on my face," Woll said.
Not everyone, however, was there to speak against fracking. Algenon Cash, a Kernersville resident, also chair of the state's Energy Forum.
"We can get in the energy business and we can do it safely," Cash said. "That we can do it responsibly, and we can create a lot of jobs. I think what we want to accomplish at the hearings is, making sure we have a balanced discussion."
Cash recognized that there are dangers when it comes to fracking, but emphasized that with the proper regulations, the benefits would outweigh the negative effects.
"It was dangerous for us to drive here this morning. I probably almost got in three accidents. But I still did it, and I found a way to do it safely," Cash said. "What if we would have told Henry Ford not to create the car because it was risky, or because it was dangerous? Look at where we would be today."
There were about 600 chairs inside the McKimmon center, and most of them were filled. People were called up one at a time, and given three minutes to voice their opinions. The majority of the people who spoke were against fracking. Those people were met with cheers as they concluded their statements.
Cash gave his speech to the council, closing by saying, "It's time that we start working together for a brighter energy future for North Carolina," but he was booed as he walked away from the podium.
A high school sophomore also spoke in support of fracking, but her speech was accompanied by laughter and scoffs from the crowd.
David McGowan, who heads up North Carolina's Petroleum Council, also spoke at the hearing. McGowan pledged that the council would continue to work closely, in a constructive manner, "to ensure that oil and natural gas exploration, and production in North Carolina, will be done safely and responsibly."
People who could not make it to Wednesday's hearing have three more opportunities to voice their opinions in person. The next is scheduled for Aug. 22 at the Wicker Civic Center in Sanford, from 5 to 9 p.m. Three days later, on Aug. 25, another hearing is set to be held at Rockingham County High School in Wentworth, also from 5 to 9 p.m.. The last public hearing is set for Sept. 12 at the Bardo Fine & Performing Arts Center on the Western Carolina University campus in Cullowhee. That hearing also will be from 5 to 9 p.m.
If you wish to submit your opinions in written form, you can send a letter to:
Mining & Energy Commission
ATTN: Oil and Gas Program
1612 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699
You are asked to submit your written statements before the beginning of the final hearing, on September 12th.