Recently, the NC Department of Natural Resources requested commentary on their report analyzing the feasibility of opening the Triassic Basin to hydraulic fracturing. A few public hearings were scheduled, and I attended the one in Chapel Hill.
Unfortunately (or, perhaps, fortunately) I was unable to speak: there were over 90 people signed up before five p.m. and they made it through around 70 of them before ending the evening. The general sentiment was that fracking was unwanted in the state (something the report more or less agrees with, excepting the final conclusion). This I certainly agree with: there is little to no benefit to extracting the last drops of fossil fuel from the planet, and significant risks and certain costs to the local population. We already have enough code red days each summer, and we have precious little clean groundwater as it is!
The DENR helpfully set up an email address for comments (now closed); here’s my commentary:
As a concerned citizen of NC, I wish to lodge an objection to hydraulic facturing and the founding of a fossil fuels industry in our state.
We are at a crossroads: coal plants are reaching terminal age or being shuttered early due to EPA restrictions. The approach to base load replacement thus far seems to be shifting to natural gas; in my opinion this is a fatal mistake for modern society.
NC in particular has what appear to be poor and risky conditions for extraction of shale gas with groundwater sources insufficiently separated from shale deposits. The size of the deposits, in light of the expected increase in natural gas use, are pitifully small and not worth exploiting in light of the risks. There is also the grim reality that natural gas still emits CO₂; as well as the potential that we’ve delayed the transition to non-fossil fuels for too long, and must suffer the pain of resource exhaustion now.
Instead, I propose another solution (although, I suspect this is out of the scope of the dept of natural resources).
We have the Silicon Valley of the east coast in RTP; a fine engineering school at NCSU with an existing nuclear engineering program (as well as a 1MWe reactor!); a nuclear generation site with room for 2-3 more reactors (and COL applications pending for two 1.1 GW reactors); a proposed next-generation uranium enrichment plant planned for Wilmington.
These factors make the answer clear (at least to me): we should work toward making NC the center of nuclear engineering in the US. I’m not a fan of the phrase “job creation”, but the mere construction of a single unit would create more jobs than the report’s projected 858 peak jobs (The DOE, perhaps not the best source, forecasts 3500 construction related jobs and 800 permanent positions would be created). And certainly attracting DOE and private research investment would bolster the economy by more than exploiting a fairly limited resource.
Thank you for reading my comments; I hope that the final report issued replaces the summary with one that agrees with the content of the report.