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Legislative committee leaning toward allowing fracking

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RALEIGH -- North Carolina lawmakers are looking into the pros and cons of fracking, a controversial method of drilling for natural gas.

Fracking is illegal in North Carolina, but lawmakers are looking into whether they should allow it.

On Wednesday, the Senate's Energy Policy Issues Committee heard from people on both sides of the issue. Some talked about how extracting North Carolina's natural gas will benefit everyone, by cutting energy costs.

“This is where everyone who uses electricity or natural gas is going to be benefiting, and in fact, we know is already benefiting from the production of this resource,” said America's Natural Gas Alliance Chief Economist Sara Banaszak.

But some speakers warned committee members other states that have already allowed fracking now have concerns about possible safety and pollution risks, like contaminated water.

“The biggest concern for people isn't stray gas,” said Dr. Rob Jackson, professor with the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University. “It probably shouldn't be stray gas. It ought to be the chemicals in the fracturing fluid.”

“Today we don't have enough information to make a good decision,” said Will Morgan, Director of Government Relations for the North Carolina Chapter of the Sierra Club. “Until the USGS study comes back, we won't really even know how much shale gas we have in North Carolina and we certainly don't know the extent of the environmental risk associated with fracking.”

Some speakers asked committee members for more time to allow environmental groups and university experts to study both the benefits and concerns with fracking.

But committee members questions and comments implied they are leaning towards allowing fracking in our state.

“I don't want any pollutant stuff either,” said Sen. Harris Blake, a Republican representing Moore and Harnett counties. “I'm very concerned about that. But I'm concerned that we'll spend years studying this stuff and then go ahead and do it. Then look at the time we'll lose.”

“Environmental advocates see this as an issue we need to go slow on,” Margaret Hartzell with Environment North Carolina said, after the meeting. “This is a complicated issue that does not need to be decided on a whim or a six-week legislative session.”

The Energy Policy Issues Committee will have two more meetings over the next couple of months before likely making a recommendation to the full Senate. ClientIP: UserAgent: CCBot/2.0 ( Profile: TWCSAMLSP