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Ohio Utica Shale

North Carolina panel sets 2015 for first fracking permits

By Bob Downing Published: February 23, 2013

From the Associated Press:

A North Carolina state Senate panel agreed Thursday to set a 2015 date for North Carolina's first fracking permits, but bill supporters vowed drilling licenses wouldn't be granted until regulations governing the controversial practice are finalized.

Senate Republicans are pushing legislation that expands on last year's law, which authorized fracking but prohibited licensing until state regulators produced rules for it by October 2014.

The proposal heading to the Senate floor next week says the state Mining and Energy Commission and state environment department would be authorized to issue permits starting March 1, 2015. An amendment also approved Thursday would not require the regulators to issue the permits until all the required rules are in effect.

Sen. Buck Newton, R-Wilson, one of the bill's primary sponsors, said no one was speeding up the process to allow horizontal drilling and fracking. Newton said legislators will likely to have to vote to affirm whatever regulations are developed.

"So the rules are going to be in place before any permits are issued," Newton said.

Fracking is a process that involves injecting a drilled well with chemicals, water and sand at high pressure in order to crack shale rock and release natural gas. Environmental groups that opposed the 2012 law, which then-Gov. Beverly Perdue vetoed but was overridden, say the process is too risky, particularly for groundwater supplies.

They say Republicans aren't waiting for Mining and Energy Commission to carefully work out the regulations.

"We do think this process needs to slow down a little bit,'" Dan Crawford with the North Carolina League of Conservation Voters told the committee earlier this week.

A change in Thursday's bill directs that certain water generated from the drilling process can be returned underground, but it still doesn't prevent groundwater contamination by the fluid used to fracture the rocks, according to Elizabeth Ouzts, state director of Environment North Carolina.

The bill "threatens our water quality," Ouzts said after the meeting. "It represents the wrong course for our energy future."

A state government report issued in 2012 said fracking could be performed safely in North Carolina if the right regulations were in place.

Newton said earlier this week the new bill was needed because the natural gas industry needed assurances North Carolina was serious about exploration. In New York, for example, a fracking moratorium has been in place for 4½ years with no assurance it will be lifted even if regulations are finalized this year.

The greatest potential for fracking in North Carolina appears to be with shale deposits in the Piedmont and Sandhills. Estimates vary on the amount of natural gas that could be reached. Republicans see a burgeoning natural gas industry bringing jobs and tax revenues to the state, but critics say the benefits are several years away or may never come because the reserves aren't that great.

The bill also sets new severance tax rates on gas, oil and liquid fuel extracted by future exploration that's based on its market value and increase over time, which lawmakers hope will attract exploration early. The measure also urges McCrory to work with the governors of South Carolina and Virginia to lobby the federal government to jump-start energy exploration off the mid-Atlantic coast. McCrory and the other governor wrote a letter last week promoting the exploration.

The bill will ultimately go to the House, where Speaker Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, said last week he was inclined for now to let the fracking process play itself out based on what the 2012 law directed. McCrory has said he supports both fracking and offshore energy exploration.

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See the most recent drilling report and an injection wells map From NewsOutlet.org

Utica and Marcellus shale web sites

Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management State agency Web site.

ODNR Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management. State drilling permits. List is updated weekly.

ODNR Division of Geological Survey.

Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

Ohio State University Extension.

Ohio Farm Bureau.

Ohio Oil and Gas Association, a Granville-based group that represents 1,500 Ohio energy-related companies.

Ohio Oil & Gas Energy Education Program.

Energy In Depth, a trade group.

Marcellus and Utica Shale Resource Center by Ohio law firm Bricker & Eckler.

Utica Shale, a compilation of Utica shale activities.

Landman Report Card, a site that looks at companies involved in gas and oil leases.FracFocus, a compilation of chemicals used in fracking individual wells as reported voluntarily by some drillers.

Chesapeake Energy Corp,the Oklahoma-based firm is the No. 1 driller in Ohio.

Rig Count Interactive Map by Baker Hughes, an energy services company.

Shale Sheet Fracking, a Youngstown Vindicator blog.

National Geographic's The Great Shale Rush.

The Ohio Environmental Council, a statewide eco-group based in Columbus.

Buckeye Forest Council.

Earthjustice, a national eco-group.

Stop Fracking Ohio.

People's Oil and Gas Collaborative-Ohio, a grass-roots group in Northeast Ohio.

Concerned Citizens of Medina County, a grass-roots group.

No Frack Ohio, a Columbus-based grass-roots group.

Fracking: Gas Drilling's Environmental Threat by ProPublica, an online journalism site.

Penn State Marcellus Center.

Pipeline, blog from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Marcellus shale drilling.

Allegheny Front, environmental public radio for Western Pennsylvania.