North Carolina's new Mining & Energy Commission is likely to receive plenty of unsolicited advice on how to safely manage fracking in this state as the panel undertakes its mission of writing regulations and reports for the state legislature.
One of the more ambitious contributions will come from Research Triangle Environmental Health Collaborative. The local non-profit organization is planning a two-day symposium next month on the public health effects of fracking, with plans to produce a report and conclusions for state lawmakers, public officials as well as members of the Mining & Energy Commission.
For its part, the commission is holding its first meeting today for planning and orientation purposes. But some of the commission's 15 members have already accepted invitations to the health collaborative's symposium, scheduled for Oct. 2-3.
The collaborative meeting is open by invitation only to about 150 people who are expected to attend. It will break off three working groups to address separate health aspects of fracking, an industry shorthand for hydraulic fracturing.
The symposium, to be held in Research Triangle Park, will feature speakers from the Environmental Protection Agency, Centers for Disease Control, National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, as well as N.C. agency officials, Duke University researchers and other professionals.
North Carolina is believed to hold 1.7 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, much of it concentrated in Lee, Moore and Chatham counties.
Fracking refers to pumping millions of gallons of water, mixed with sand and chemicals, at high pressure to break up prehistoric shale rock and release natural gas trapped inside.
Fracking today supplies about a quarter of the nation's natural gas supply. North carolina has cleared the way to legalize fracking, but the Mining & Energy Commission will spend at least two years preparing regulations before exploratory drilling can begin.
Advocates of fracking say it will create jobs and supply a domestic energy resource. Critics say it is environmentally risky and dangerous.