Chatham Commissioners adopt ordinance to ban oil and gas development for two years

Pittsboro, NC – On August 17, the Chatham County Board of Commissioners adopted an ordinance imposing a two-year moratorium on county approvals for oil and gas development, including hydraulic fracking. The moratorium period will give the county time to update relevant land use regulations and ordinances and develop a permitting process for such operations.

induced-seismicityThe adoption of the moratorium follows several months of review of available options and a public hearing on the topic held on July 20, 2015. A law passed by the General Assembly in 2012 limits local government regulation of fracking operations, but it did not prevent temporary moratoriums, claims Commissioner Chairman James Crawford.

It is uncertain whether this fracking ban will stand up to legal scrutiny.

The Chatham ordinance notes that the extraction of oil or gas in Chatham County would be a significant threat to the “health safety and welfare of residents, neighborhoods, environment and natural features” based on the record of such operations in other states.

However, despite these stated threats by the Chatham County commissioners, a June report released by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says there is little evidence that hydraulic fracturing has had a “widespread, systematic impacts” on drinking water.

Other county factors cited in the Chatham County ordinance include:

• Recreational and environmental areas could be at risk, including several endangered species and nature preserves.
• Chatham County is located in the Triassic Basin, which includes several essential geological and ecological resources, such as high quality streams, rare diabase seepage bogs and buffer areas.
• The Jonesboro seismic fault runs through the county, which could be negatively impacted by fracking.
• Fracking produces large volumes of potentially hazardous waste and toxins and the county has no facilities for this treatment of wastewater.
• Increased heavy equipment traffic on the county’s rural roads will increase the need for maintenance and repair by NC Department of Transportation, requiring state funding that is out of the county’s control.
• Emergency responders will have to get special training in the hazardous materials used by fracking operations so that they can be prepared to respond incidents.

To view the entire ordinance, visit the Chatham County website and look for a link as a news item on the homepage.