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Commission Tweaks Fracking Rules

The commission tasked with drafting the rules for hydraulic fracturing in North Carolina is considering some small changes. The Mining and Energy Commission is meeting today and tomorrow in Raleigh.

Over the past several months, the MEC received more than 200,000 comments from nearly 40,000 people. Many wanted an outright fracking ban; others pointed to more specific rule changes they wanted, like requiring pits that store fracking waste to be capped.

That rule is not on the list of changes. But the Commission is expected to consider increasing the “setback” or distance a fracking site can be from a water supply from 650 to 1,500 feet. Another proposed rule changed would allow unannounced inspections of fracking sites.

Environmentalists praised the changes, but say they don’t go far enough.

“The rule package overall relies very heavily on self-inspection and self-reporting,” says Grady McCallie with the North Carolina Conservation Network. “And that’s not been particularly successful in other states.”

The MEC says it has no authority to change another controversial fracking issue: forcing drilling companies to reveal the chemicals they use in the process.

“The (rules) package doesn’t include any protections from toxic air emissions, which has been a problem in other states,” says McCallie. “It doesn’t deal with the problem that there isn’t actually a safe way to dispose of the wastewater.”

The MEC will take a final vote on rules later this month. It will then go to the General Assembly. A moratorium on fracking in North Carolina is set to end in 2015.

Dave DeWitt is WUNC's Supervising Editor for Politics and Education. As an editor, reporter, and producer he's covered politics, environment, education, sports, and a wide range of other topics.
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