Creedmoor mayor considers anti-fracking options

sbarr@newsobserver.comJune 22, 2014 

MORALMONDAY17NE060214CEL

Cam MacQueen carries an anti-fracking sign as Moral Monday protesters sing and circle the Capitol Building Monday, June 2. Creedmoor city officials are considering new plans in light of new legislation that will allow fracking in the state.

CHUCK LIDDY — cliddy@newsobserver.com Buy Photo

— When the city passed a fracking ban nearly three years ago, officials expected that it would one day be trumped by state law.

But they wanted the chance to register their objections to fracking and to do so in a way that they could point to in discussions with state lawmakers, said Mayor Darryl Moss.

Now, with a state law on the books that preempts city and county governments’ fracking rules, Moss and others opposed to the practice are looking for ways to register their disapproval and prevent it locally.

“We’ve got to continue plugging on every possible level that we can,” he said at a city forum on fracking last week.

For example, Moss wants to look at whether the city’s zoning ordinances can limit the potential for fracking in the area, such as through rules for hazardous industry that aren’t specifically about fracking.

Creedmoor is in southern Granville County, just north of Falls Lake, the primary source of drinking water for Raleigh.

The term fracking is shorthand for hydraulic fracturing, a controversial process used to extract natural gas from shale formations deep underground. Among the top concerns for critics of the practice is how it affects water and air quality.

Granville County sits on the edge of a shale formation, and it is unknown how extensive the natural gas deposits are locally, or if a company ever would find it economically viable to drill for them there.

Despite the uncertainties, the time to act is now, Moss said.

In the past, the city has been caught playing defense on environmental issues, he said. This time, Creedmoor wants to be ahead of any developments.

The Energy Modernization Act, signed into law earlier this month, allows fracking permits to be issued in North Carolina 61 days after safety regulations still in development are adopted. The law spells out the rules against municipalities and counties adopting more stringent oil and gas exploration, development and production laws or regulations than the state.

In Creedmoor, the zoning rules applicable to potential fracking would require a company to operate in an area zoned for industrial use and with a hazardous industry overlay. In most cases, unless an area was already zoned for industry, the company would have to seek both designations from the city through its planning process.

The two-part designation applies to all hazardous industries, not only oil and gas companies.

Randall Cahoon, stormwater administrator for Creedmoor and a certified zoning official, wrote the city’s original ban on fracking.

While the new state law preempts the ban, he said the zoning rules appear to be safe because they do not deal specifically with fracking.

Barr: 919-836-4952; Twitter: @barrmsarah

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