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NC State Study: Financial Cost Of Fracking In NC Could Outweigh Benefits

Photo: A farm in Lee County
Donald Lee Pardue via Flickr

North Carolina’s economy could gain more from off-shore gas and oil drilling than from drilling on land, and the financial cost of drilling on land could outweigh the benefit, according to a report state lawmakers received on Tuesday.

Off-shore drilling could represent $1.9 billion in economic activity in the state per year for 30 years, according to a report from N.C. State University, which looked at economic benefits like jobs created and drawbacks like environmental risks.  

Drilling on land could represent $158 million in increased activity per year for 20 years, but a loss of property values in some communities of up to $4.7 billion, and an associated loss of spending from $32 million to $235 million per year, according to the report.

Professor Michael Walden, who authored the report, which was originally published in April 2013, said the estimated impacts are subject to specific forecasts on energy prices, and estimates of available gas or oil that could viably be extracted. He told members of the Joint Legislative Commission on Energy Policy, which is overseeing fracking rule-making in the state, that the economic return therefore had the potential to be significantly higher.

Several state representatives and senators expressed enthusiasm over higher economic gains for the state.

"I spent time reading" the report, said Sen. Bob Rucho (R-Mecklenburg). "I did it twice, I was so excited about that information."

In an analysis of the report, Grady McCallie, policy director of the North Carolina Conservation Network, says it overestimates economic benefits because shale gas -- the likely source of energy -- would yield fewer jobs than conventional gas, and because it doesn’t distinguish between economic contributions to North Carolina versus other states.

Jorge Valencia has been with North Carolina Public Radio since 2012. A native of Bogotá, Colombia, Jorge studied journalism at the University of Maryland and reported for four years for the Roanoke Times in Virginia before joining the station. His reporting has also been published in the Wall Street Journal, the Miami Herald, and the Baltimore Sun.
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