Weekly Conservation Bulletin

03/19/2012

The fracking report is out and reaction is beginning, plus more news, this week in CIB:

  • Legislative Watch: Fracking Report Released, Hearings Planned
  • Environomics: Commuters Vote With Their Seats for Transit
  • Conservationists: Rev. Lynice Williams
  • Education & Resources: Myths in the Wind

Legislative Watch: Fracking Report Released, Hearings Planned

The long-anticipated state report on fracking was released late last week, and contains conclusions guaranteed to dissatisfy all perspectives. In sum, the Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) draft report concludes that 'fracking'--hydraulic fracturing to release natural gas contained in rock layers--and the horizontal drilling to conduct it can be done safely. However, it also says that additional legal and regulatory safeguards are needed first.

The report's recommendations for safety steps proceeding the authorization of fracking include the following:

  • Further study of the potential impacts on groundwater in areas where exploration may take place.
  • State-approved plans limiting the amounts of water that can be withdrawn during the process.
  • Mandated disclosure of chemicals used in the fracking process, with public disclosure of any information not protected by 'trade secret' status.
  • Development of an oil and gas waste management regulatory program.

The report's recommendations are not likely to please either those whose position is 'no fracking, no way', nor those whose mantra is 'drill now, drill everywhere, for everything'.

DENR's press release with more information is available at http://portal.ncdenr.org/c/journal/view_article_content?groupId=21953&articleId=6157644, and the full draft report can be found at http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/guest/denr-study.

The two meetings to accept public comments on the draft report are scheduled for March 20 at the Wicker Center in Sanford, and March 27 at the East Chapel Hill High School auditorium in Chapel Hill. Both public meetings are scheduled to run from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.

DENR is required to make its final report to the N.C. General Assembly no later than May 1. The legislature's special Energy Policy Committee is set to meet April 21, and is likely to take up the report for discussion whether the final is ready or not.

Environomics: Commuters Vote With Their Seats for Transit

Rising gas prices helped push public transit ridership well past the ten billion mark last year, a 2.31% increase over 2010 and the highest number since the big gas price peak of 2008. A report by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) notes that the ongoing economic recovery also contributed to last year's ridership increases. Numbers previously had dropped from 2008 in part due to the loss of commuters taking transit to their jobs when those were cut.

APTA also noted that rider numbers were up across the country, in rural areas and smaller cities as well as major metro cities. Passenger numbers increased 5.4% in cities under 100,000, about double the rate of growth for the nation as a whole. Many cities are reporting even faster transit growth in 2012. Mid-sized Durham, for example, reported transit ridership growth of 15.6% so far this year (data analyzed on a month-to-month comparative basis).

Public transit is an environmentally preferable option to growth in single-passenger vehicles. That's in part because of the direct savings in energy use and air pollution per passenger-mile, and in part because transit-oriented development tends to be denser, which cuts total transit miles traveled and reduces loss of farm and forest land from urban sprawl.

For more information on public transportation and related issues, see www.apta.com.  Further details on transit ridership are discussed in http://www.apta.com/mediacenter/pressreleases/2012/Pages/120312_2011Ridership.aspx.

Conservationists: Rev. Lynice Williams

North Carolina lost a dedicated advocate for environmental justice and human rights with the passing of the Rev. Lynice Williams on March 10. Williams co-founded the N.C. Environmental Justice Network and the Grassroots Energy Alliance. She was executive director of N.C. Fair Share and a board member of the N.C. Council of Churches. NCLCV general counsel John Runkle said of Williams, "She believed deeply and fought passionately for health care and environmental justice as she knew them to be human rights."

Education & Resources: Myths in the Wind

"Wind Energy Myths" will be the topic of a webinar offered by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) on Tuesday, March 27, from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. Issues to be discussed include wind energy variability, costs, and environmental impacts. For information and to register, see http://www.cleanenergy.org/index.php?/SACE-Webinars.html.

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