Scotland residents will get a chance next week to learn more about an issue that has been subject to a lot of debate lately — fracking.
A seminar will start at noon on Monday at the county Cooperative Extension office in Laurinburg. Attendees are invited to bring their own lunch. Dessert and drinks will be provided.
The event is sponsored by the Scotland County Cooperative Extension Advisory Council.
NC State University professor and agricultural lawyer Ted Feitshans will lead the program, which is expected to include a slide presentation as well as a question-and-answer session aimed at providing information about fracking ahead of its arrival in North Carolina.
“Mr. Feitshans is very learned on the overall subject of fracking,” said Randy Wood, director of the county Cooperative Extension office. “We expect him to present a very neutral and informative program so people can make up their own minds. We see it as an opportunity for Scotland county residents to be more informed.
Feitshans said fracking has it pros and cons.
“Production of oil and gas from shale has been a game changer in the energy business” and “opens the possibility that the United States will regain its position as an energy super power,” Feitshans said.
Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) is the method by which the lucrative mining of oil and gas from shale is made possible. Fracking operations are already underway in states like Texas and Pennsylvania.
North Carolina has become a fracking target because of its “hydrocarbon-bearing shale deposit that runs from Anson County north to Durham and Wake Counties,” Feitshans said.
Activity is currently centered in Lee, Chatham and Moore Counties, although less well explored deposits are known to exist elsewhere in North Carolina.
Energy companies are only now targeting North Carolina deposits because of their relatively limited size. They are also honing in on the state for the first time because of new legislation paving the way for fracking in the state to being in 2014.
Feitshans believes that the economic ripple effects of fracking in North Carolina could be substantial.
“Production of oil and gas from shale has opened economic opportunities for many,” Feitshans said. “Even places like Scotland County could potentially benefit from selling sand, gravel, water and other supplies.”
“There are also downsides.”
Among those downsides are that the process uses large quantities of water, creates waste that requires specialize handling and can cause air, ground and surface water contamination.
“Rural communities often experience increases in traffic and crime and changes to the rural character of towns and countryside,” Feitshans said.
Even in a worst-case scenario Feitshans said it is “not likely” that Scotland County would feel any serious environmental effects from fracking because of its distance from the state’s shale deposits.
A new bill enacted by the General Assembly (over a veto by the governor) sets the framework for establishing an oil and gas industry in North Carolina, and tasks the Mining and Energy Commission with regulating that industry.
The Mining and Energy Commission, according to Feitshans, has been tasked with developing a regulatory program for the management of oil and gas exploration as well as the development and use of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing practices in the state.
Law makers have also charged the commission with protecting public health and safety, property and the environment and balancing those interests with the goal of providing for the productive and efficient development of oil and gas resources in the state.