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Chatham Citizens for Effective Communities Comments to NC DENR Public Forum:

April 2, 2012 - Fearrington Village – Chatham County NC

I am Gary Simpson, a resident of Pittsboro speaking on behalf of Chatham Citizens for Effective Communities, a grass roots citizen advocacy and education organization. In all we do, we seek to uphold the Vision Statement of Chatham and its municipalities which reads:

Chatham County will be a place that cooperatively controls its own destiny to assure the state of well-being desired by all of our people, while proudly preserving diverse cultural heritages and the County’s rural character.

(Vision prepared by the Strategic Plan Development Committee and signed by the five governing boards in the County.)

We believe that the assets that will enrich and sustain Chatham’s future are not to be found in a pseudo treasure chest of fossil fuel buried beneath our bucolic fields and forests, rivers and lakes, and the small traditional and organic sustainable farmsteads that dominate our rustic landscape, providing us with healthy food, a homegrown economy and a Mayberry-like quality of life . Unlike most other NC counties, we are growing farms rather than losing them. Our rural character is our identity, our lifeblood, the charm that draws people here to this idyllic spot in the Piedmont. We know that the real value of Chatham is those assets that lie above ground and our commitment and ability to manage and preserve these amazing resources and rural character for the well being of all.

But we stand to lose our identity, character and unique quality of life because as part of the Deep River Basin shale play we are placed on the front lines of a battle royal. We know the casualties of that battle that’s been fought in countless communities in over 30 Fractured States of America.

We’ve watched rural landscapes turned into heavy industrial wastelands. We’ve heard of the collateral damage inflicted on innocent victims. We’ve seen through the industry propaganda and denial. We’ve witnessed the wishful thinking of politicians. It is because of the well documented history of collateral damage wrought upon others during America’s shale gas boom that well informed citizens caution their legislators to delay opening the fracking lid to Pandora’s Box until we have a much, much better handle on it, if at all.

Our concern tonight is with the well publicized conclusion of the DENR draft report. Given the premises of the report, one would reasonably expect the conclusion to be worded something like this:

“DENR believes that hydraulic fracturing cannot be done safely unless and until the right protections are in place .” Such a statement suggests that the key to Pandora’s Box remain on the hook, rather than granting reason to place it in the lock.

The poet, James Whitcomb Riley, provided us all with a sensible approach to strong inductive reasoning when he said, "When I see a bird that walks like a duck and swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, I call that bird a duck." While it may not be prudent in the current political climate to call a duck a duck because of the abundance of duck hunters in the General Assembly, we urge you, nevertheless, to reconsider your conclusion for the final May Day report. Your report has all the right stuff to logically, objectively and morally call a duck a duck. And to discerning ears, you won’t come off sounding like “quacks” when you do.

During its March 12, 2012 meeting, the Pittsboro Town Board of Commissioners unanimously passed a Resolution aimed at slowing down the “fracking express” that is being fast tracked by legislators in the NC General Assembly.

The Resolution was jointly created and presented by area citizen action organizations including Chatham Citizens for Effective Communities (CCEC), Deep River Clean Water Society, Haw River Assembly and Sierra Club Orange-Chatham Group with support of Clean Water for NC, Food and Water Watch and Friends of the Rocky River.

Representatives from the organizations along with some local citizens were granted the opportunity to speak at the Town Board meeting, and responded to questions raised by the Commissioners. Following the presentations and discussion, the Town Board adopted a modified version of the Resolution that will be presented to the NC General Assembly as well as to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

NC Fracking Study Nears Completion
February 16, 2012

It is arguably an ill-conceived and poorly timed study on the feasibility of shale gas extraction via hydraulic fracturing (fracking). The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has the unenviable task of heading the study given too little time and too few funds. The final report is required by May of this year. While input at public hearings has been predominantly unfavorable toward legalization of fracking, no observer following the progress of this process will be surprised if the final report is anything but favorable.

No one in the pro fracking camp wants to appear to have their minds already made up in favor of scrapping current state laws prohibiting horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing. But while the perception of prudence (i.e., “We’ll drill, but only if it’s safe ”) is the goal of “legislative speak,” there is little evidence to convict the fracking proponents on Jones Street of forethought, caution or objectivity. Indeed, the blatant disregard for decorum by the ruling party, especially in the (mis)conduct of multiple special sessions , reveals an “ends justifies the means” and “winner take all” bravado unmatched by previous legislative bodies. The Speaker of the House has been anything but shy or discreet in proclaiming that he will strike wherever and whenever he has the means to (a.k.a. Drill, Baby, Drill bill). While hyping shale gas as a “bridge fuel toward energy independence,” the majority party continues to dismantle bridges of cooperation that reach across the aisle and build the public trust.