Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Rural N.C. residents make voices heard at polls, vote in commissioners who pass ban on fracking

For those who think people no longer have a say in their local government, the rural town of Walnut Cove, N.C., (Best Places map) can serve as a reminder of the power of voting. Unhappy with the Walnut Cove Board of Commissioners' plan to allow hydraulic fracturing in the mostly black neighborhood of Walnut Tree, residents of the town of 1,400 went to the polls last week and replaced two pro-fracking commissioners with anti-fracking ones. On Tuesday the board "unanimously passed a three-year fracking moratorium," Nicholas Elmes reports for The Stokes News in Walnut Cove.

The moratorium "goes into extensive detail about the dangers fracking may cause in the area, highlighting potential water, air and noise pollution," Elmes writes. "After comparing the depth at which potential gas producing shale has been found at, between 98 feet and 423.7 feet, to the depths at which the town’s wells supply water, from 130 feet to 1,230 feet, the moratorium warns that any fracking operations would be located at the same depths as potential future water supplies for the town. It also notes that the town is currently having trouble meeting its water demands during peak seasons. The moratorium also touches on the potential for chemicals used in fracking operations and emissions from equipment to produce hazardous air pollutants and that the noise and invasiveness of the industry could cause problems in the community."

In April the board unanimously voted "to allow the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources to probe for shale gas or oil on a sliver of town property," Bertrand M. Gutiérrez reports for the Winston-Salem Journal. "Once DENR officials got permission from the commissioners to use the land, they moved ahead with plans to hire Patterson Exploration Services to drill a core hole more than 1,000 feet deep. The local chapter of the NAACP "asked the commissioners in a letter to rescind that permission. The commissioners discussed the letter June 9 during a public meeting. Lewis said that the notion of rescinding permission was moot because the drilling team had already started the project."

"That night, Walnut Cove residents, supported by fracking opponents from other areas of Stokes County and other counties, packed the meeting room—and walked out," Gutiérrez writes. "They stood up about halfway through the meeting to sing a protest song—'We shall not be moved'—for more than five minutes before peacefully leaving."

"Last month, the commissioners voted unanimously to establish a three-year halt on any possible oil-and-gas development—time the commissioners say they need to study whether state and federal regulations adequately protect residents from effects of fracking, the drilling method used to extract shale gas or oil," Gutiérrez writes. "Fracking opponents applauded the vote, but it apparently was not enough. A community coalition involving residents from Walnut Cove residents and surrounding areas had formed," and two commissioners were defeated at the polls.

No comments: