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Monday, March 10, 2014

They Want to be...Close to You


How close is too close to a home or school?  650 feet? Well that's how close our friends at the Mining and
Example of distance from gas wells in Weld County Colorado
Energy Commission (MEC) think that a fracking site can be to either. During initial debate on setbacks,  Environmental Standards Committee Chairman George Howard admonished some on his committee that mentioned health and safety concerns. Howard said  that the Legislature "did not proscribe us to establish setbacks for the protection of health and safety."

This is not the first time that Howard has taken it upon himself to remind his committee and the whole MEC of this. Howard was joined in his duet by Commissioner "Industry Won't Come Here" Holbrook. The first draft of the setback rules stunned those in the audience. It was proposed at 150 feet. It was never made clear where the 150 feet came from, and it was quickly sent back to staff. The next time the draft rule appeared it had increased to...500 feet.

Fracking is a highly industrial activity; spewing toxic emissions and subjecting communities to constant noise, light, traffic and dust. What a fracking site looks like Recent studies show troubling measurements of toxic emissions up to 1/2 mile from well sites.

At the January 31, 2014 Mining and Energy Commission meeting, with some ceremony, Environmental Standards Committee Chairman George Howard recommended increasing the setbacks from occupied dwellings and places such as schools and hospitals to 650 feet. The 650 feet can be reduced to 400 feet for occupied dwellings under certain circumstances.This was in response to a letter sent by Frack Free NC allies the day before, which outlined the inadequacy of the 500 foot setback.

Here's some of the debate from that January 31 meeting (not in chronological order):

Commissioner Charles Holbrook: " I have a number of concerns about this, what is the motivating factor that precipitated the recommended changes?"

Commissioner George Howard: "Being attendant to the public anxiety." Howard also stated that the setback rules were, "Unquestionably the most comprehensive setback rule in the country." Ummmmmmm ------>

See the News and Observer article:
NC fracking panel sets safe drilling distances from homes, steams

Commissioner Amy Pickle, who was interrupted by Holbrook: "If you will let me finish please. For states that are reviewing their setback rules, those setbacks are consistently getting bigger. So [for] states that have experience with this industry who are dealing with the on the ground and community impacts, the setbacks are not staying at 100 feet, the setbacks are getting bigger."

When the vote was called for, Holbrook voted no stating that, "...I think the setback changes were unnecessary, [and]I think they're excessive..."

Mining and Energy Commission Chairman Jim Womack
Photo courtesy of Jimmie Olsen

In reality there is no safe distance from a fracking site, and as was eloquently stated by a Chatham County resident: " Your setback distances are small, and they're going to be smaller compared to what's happening across the country. Dallas has gone from 300 feet to 1500 feet." She went on to say, "...part of it [the opposition] is because fracking is so close to where we live...[speaking on Dallas' setbacks] but the individual out in Sanford, Lee County matters. In looking at your setback distances, I think you better take out on page 2, line 4, says to minimize or mitigate potential adverse impacts to public health, public safety, the environment, and wildlife. You all have no idea what it means to protect the public health, safety, the environment and wildlife, you've done no studies, its a totally squishy statement, and its meaningless."

Couldn't have said it better myself. To listen to the audio of the meeting go here: January 31 2014 Mining and Energy Commission Meeting