Anti-fracking foes punctuated the state’s fourth and final public hearing on hydraulic fracturing regulations with an exclamation point. About 550 people showed up Friday in Cullowhee to wave anti-fracking signs, tender anti-fracking speeches and cheer anti-fracking speakers.
This final hearing means the 15-member N.C. Mining and Energy Commission has hit the homestretch after two years of developing regulations for hydraulic fracturing. Members now review their work in light of the comments and send the General Assembly their recommended rules.
State officials said 102 people signed up for three minutes each at the mic in Western Carolina University’s Ramsey Center. Over four hours, a procession of speakers cajoled, berated and pleaded with members of the Commission. Some called for an outright fracking ban. Others sought a yearlong moratorium capped with a statewide up-or-down vote. The ones who homed in on the proposed regulations dismissed them as lax and absent environmental safeguards.
Enrolled tribal member Susan Leading Fox accused commission members of intentionally building loopholes into the proposed regulations. “It is by design,” she said, that property owners lack state protections and remedies if chemicals used by fracking companies contaminate their land. Fox is former deputy of the health and medical division for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.