Why the fracking? Looking for answers at Asheville Green Drinks

What if we took millions of gallons of water, combined it with a secret slurry of sand and chemicals and pumped it thousands of feet underground into shale formations (intersecting groundwater aquifers along the way). Then we could allow up to 50 percent of the contaminated water to come back to the surface, and store the remainder in poorly designed “waste pits.” We could exempt the process from the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Clean Air Act. And we could do it all without conducting studies on what the long-term effects of this practice might be.

At the 518th edition of Asheville Green Drinks on Aug. 20, Sally Morgan – energy and water justice researcher and organizer for Clean Water for North Carolina – argued that fracking in North Carolina would bring about the above scenario.

More than 20 community members converged on the Green Sage Café to hear Morgan’s presentation, and they seemed to agree with her. In addition to listening to the talk, audience members passed out flyers, signed petitions and distributed postcards addressed to N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory — all aimed at reinstating a ban on fracking in the state.

As recently as 2008, fracking – short for “hydraulic fracturing,” a method for extracting natural gas from shale and other once hard to access formations – was unheard of in North Carolina. As Morgan put it, “Prior to 2008, we thought the best use for groundwater was for drinking.” In that year, however, geologists outlined the presence of shale gas in North Carolina. Ever since, residents, experts, activists and politicians have debated over whether or not to allow fracking in the state.

In 2012, fracking was legalized in North Carolina – despite what Morgan called “massive opposition.” Although a moratorium was enacted until regulations could be developed, in May, state legislators passed the Energy and Modernization Act (SB 7860), which lifted the ban.

Plans were soon announced about searching for natural gas in Western North Carolina — mostly in the more western counties.

According to Morgan, fracking threatens both humans and the land. “There’s been a lot of industry denial about [the] dangers [that] fracking poses to health and to the environment, but that’s a sad fact about the nature of the oil and gas industry,” Morgan said. “There’s actually a lot of evidence.”

She provided a litany of dangers. In addition to using millions of gallons of water, Morgan said, that water would be combined with “toxic chemicals and carcinogens,” which could then leak back onto the surface. Morgan noted that officials have failed to develop a sound method for disposing of leftover waste water or a technique for dealing with seepage and spills from waste pits and cement failures in drilling wells that could contaminate groundwater. She also talked about how significant amounts of methane gas and other “fugitive emissions” could be released into the atmosphere and noted the heavy truck traffic and extensive surface disturbances that fracking caused.

Moreover, Morgan made the point that there has been almost no health monitoring to determine how fracking could affect people. She said that fracking was not subject to many federal regulations (such as the Clean Water Act) and that the long-term effects of the migration of toxic water underground had not been studied.

In addition to these problems, Morgan warned that fracking would negatively impact small-land owners. Practices such as “compulsory pooling” could force owners of small plots of land to lease their mineral rights to energy companies. “This is an issue that the [Mining and Energy Commission] has been careful not to bring up, because it is something that North Carolinians don’t like,” she said.

To justify these risks, pro-fracking advocates tend to cite the economic gain that fracking promises. Morgan, however, argued that those promises were empty. “In many cases fracking actually leaves economies weaker,” she said. She pointed to a decrease in economic diversity and an increase in the income gap that often resulted from fracking. Morgan also talked about the fact that job-creation from fracking would be minimal, said that home values in areas where fracking took place would go down and claimed that both the revenues and the product generated by oil and gas companies would not stay in North Carolina. “Energy independence is a myth. Fracking companies want to export as much as possible due to higher prices overseas,” Morgan explained.

Nevertheless, Morgan said that the MEC – the government agency responsible for developing fracking regulations – is strongly pro-fracking and wants to entice fracking companies by enacting weak regulations.

Fortunately for anti-fracking advocates, the MEC is currently in a public comment period. Those who want to express their opinion on the issue can attend a public hearing on fracking rules on Friday, Sept. 12, at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee. Other public hearings will be held in Sanford on Friday, Aug. 22, and in Reidsville on Monday, Aug. 25.

To encourage reinstatement of the fracking ban, Morgan advocated passing legal ordinances and local resolutions across North Carolina, pressuring state legislators and filing lawsuits against fracking companies.

“We have a chance to stop fracking in our state, and we need to use every means possible to do that,” she said.

Written comments can be sent to the MEC at Mining and Energy Commission; 1612 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-1612. The MEC can also be emailed at Oil$Gas@NCDENR.gov (through the Public Meeting page).

Sally Morgan can be reached at sally@cwfnc.org. Additional information can also be found at www.FrackFreeNC.org or www.cwfnc.org.

The next Asheville Green Drinks meeting – “Food Access and Policy” – is scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 27, at the Green Sage Café.

About Erik Peake
Writing is my craft, my passion, my solace - and my livelihood. As a professional writer, I have worked in an array of venues and filled a variety of roles. Since I moved to Asheville, NC, I have enjoyed a freelance career as a grant writer, a technical writer, a Web-content writer, a copy editor, and an English tutor. I am currently specializing in web-content writing, blogging, and tutoring. Although an obsessive-compulsive nature inclines me toward proselytizing on behalf of English grammar, I also pursue forays into creative writing (as a balance, I suppose). Creative non-fiction is a field of particular interest to me, and I hope someday to publish a collection of short stories that circumnavigates the vicissitudes of my unorthodox youth.

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

6 thoughts on “Why the fracking? Looking for answers at Asheville Green Drinks

  1. Erik Peake: “combined with toxic chemicals and carcinogens,”


    “Typically, fracking fluid usually contains a mixture of 99.5 percent water and sand (silica), and 0.5 percent chemical additives, which are used in the drilling process for thickening the water, cleaning, lubrication of the sand, and disinfection. Virtually every single chemical that’s used in the fracking process is not harmful in small amounts and can be found right in your kitchen.”

    Fracking takes place more than a mile beneath aquifers.

    Fracking fluid wastewater is captured and recycled.

    “It’s also important to note that reusing the water in the fracking process is quickly becoming the standard, which of course reduces the volume that ultimately must be treated and disposed of. In Pennsylvania, fracking operations now recycle 90% of their flowback water. One hydrofracking company in Texas made news last year for eliminating its fresh water use entirely by only using recycled and brackish water.”

    Erik Peake: “that could contaminate groundwater”


    “Despite what you might have heard, there is no evidence at all that the fracking process has ever caused groundwater contamination. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson even testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to this very fact, saying that she was “not aware of any proven case where the fracturing process itself has affected water.” In fact, to date, after 65 years of fracking in the United States, there have been no confirmed cases of groundwater contamination from the process. The EPA also concluded that fracking does not create pathways for fluids to travel between rock formations to affect the water supply. The researchers from Yale went even further, finding no evidence of groundwater contamination due to fracking. Even when they looked for reports (no matter how minor) of groundwater contamination from the accidental surface spill of fracking fluid, they came up wanting: a 2011 report for the Secretary of Energy found that of the many hundreds of thousands of wells that have been drilled, only 19 times that water had ever been accidentally spilled — and only one of these included any groundwater contamination, which was stopped and cleaned up immediately.”

    Erik Peake: “Practices such as compulsory pooling could force owners of small plots of land to lease their mineral rights to energy companies.”


    Pooling protects the correlative rights of property owners and operators, and protects the environment from over-drilling.

    “Pooling draws many landowners together within a common “drilling unit.” A drilling unit is an area that can be effectively accessed by a single well. The purpose of drilling units is to set the optimum spacing and placement of wells, and to give each property owner a fair chance to benefit from development of oil and gas under his or her property.”

    For more truthful information, see these sources:

    Facts on Fracking in North Carolina

    FrackNation [movie]

    Truthland [video]

    Fracking: Just the Fact

    • Matthew Burd

      No evidence of ground water contamination? Tell me Mr Peck, what constitutes evidence to you? I mean if you were walking down the road and someone shot you and the bullet passed through your spine and out of your body and was never found. You were then paralyzed, would you not blame the shooter? Oh wait there’s no evidence according to your logic. I guess you not being able to walk anymore is just a coincidence.

  2. Kim Long

    How can North Carolina even consider fracking when grey water re-use is banned. Why is it banned? Because any water that touched your body could contain pathogens that could harm ground water. Are we to believe that fracking chemicals are less of a hazard than watering a plant with shower water? The law reads that any water coming from any structure that has power or water access must go down a sewer drain pipe.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.