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Hydraulic Fracturing

The Board of Directors of the North Carolina Academy of Science Statement on

Horizontal Drilling and Hydraulic Fracturing ("Fracking") in North Carolina

During the last decade, the use of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (also called "hydrofracking," or "fracking") has increased rapidly in several states. These technologies have enabled the gas industry to extract natural gas (or shale gas) from impermeable rock formations by injecting large volumes of fluid (water, plus sand and chemicals) to fracture the rock. Natural gas has been touted as a transitional fuel or "bridge fuel" 1 to an energy future that is carbon free and based on renewable sources of energy. Fracking is not without controversy, however, and has potentially detrimental effects on the environment, society, and human health.2 The state of North Carolina presently has no oil and gas industry and no prior experience managing these industries. Recent discussions and proposals in the North Carolina legislature indicate interest in encouraging development of these resources.

In July 2012, the North Carolina General Assembly ratified the Clean Energy and Economic Security Act, or Session Law 2012-143.3 This Act requires "the Mining and Energy Commission and other regulatory agencies to develop a modern regulatory program for the management of oil and gas exploration and development activities in the state, including the use of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing for that purpose." 

The North Carolina Academy of Science commends the General Assembly for soliciting public opinion, requiring pertinent state departments to conduct in-depth studies, and adopting the recommendations of these studies in drafting language of the Clean Energy and Economic Security Act. 

The North Carolina Academy of Science strongly encourages the General Assembly to proceed with equal caution in developing a regulatory framework and before drafting any future legislation that could allow issuance of permits for horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing. 

More specifically, the North Carolina Academy of Science recommends the following:

1) the issuance of permits be truly prohibited until the state has the trained personnel and financial resources to monitor and regulate fracking activities effectively, and until such time that adequate safeguards are in place to ensure protection of the environment, society, human health, and the economy

2) the state of North Carolina investigate the economic and social impacts of fracking in consideration of the limited amount of natural gas in the state's shale formations and the economic benefits that would actually result from fracking 

3) the Mining and Energy Commission and other state regulatory agencies actively engage
members of the scientific community in deliberations on the development of a modern oil and gas regulatory program

4) regulations are made subject to ongoing review to accommodate the latest scientific knowledge and technological advances, and to accommodate any impacts on the environment, society, human health, and the economy

5) the state of North Carolina provide financial support for scientific research on the effects of fracking. Sound science is critical for informed decision making, yet the paucity of existing scientific, peer-reviewed studies on fracking poses serious constraints.4 Particularly troubling is the absence of long-term studies on the effects of fracking on human health and drinking water4,5,6,7

6) the state of North Carolina invest sufficient financial resources to develop and use renewable energies, while reducing its dependency on fossil fuels, including natural gas.


Adopted June 18, 2013

1. Levi, M.A. January 2013. Climate consequences of natural gas as a bridge fuel. 
(unformatted pre-print version available at http://www.cfr.org/energyenvironment/climate-consequences-natural-gas-bridge-fuel/p29772). Climate Change.

2. Smith, R. and T. Ozer, Lead Authors. 2012. North Carolina Oil and Gas Study under Session Law 2011276. (http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/guest/denr-study). North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the North Carolina Department of Commerce. 

3. Act of 2 July 2012. Session Law 2012-143. Senate Bill 820. (http://www.ncleg.net/Sessions/2011/Bills/Senate/HTML/S820v6.html). General Assembly of North Carolina Session 2011. 

4. Jackson R.B., B. Rainey Pearson, S.G. Osborn, N.R. Warner, and A. Vengosh. 2011. Research and policy recommendations for hydraulic fracturing and shale‐gas extraction. (http://www.nicholas.duke.edu/cgc/HydraulicFracturingWhitepaper2011.pdf). Center on Global Change, Duke University, Durham, NC.

5. Committee on Science for EPA's Future; Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology; Division on Earth and Life Studies; National Research Council . 2012. Science for Environmental Protection: The Road Ahead. The National Academy of Sciences. National Academies Press.

6. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. December 2012. Study of the Potential Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing on Drinking Water Resources: Progress Report. (http://www.epa.gov/hfstudy/pdfs/hf-report20121214.pdf). U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Research and Development, EPA/601/R-12/011.

7. Vidic R.D., S. L. Brantley, J. M. Vandenbossche, D. Yoxtheimer, and J. D. Abad. 2013. Impact of shale gas development on regional water quality. (Available online at http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.1235009) Science 340, DOI: 10.1126/science.1235009.


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