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McCrory Offers a Glass of Tears for North Carolina Citizens

In several counties in North Carolina, tears may be the only source of uncontaminated water left for citizens to drink, since Governor Pat McCrory signed the Energy Modernization Act (EMA) June 4, 2014. The EMA lifted a moratorium on issuing permits to companies to frack in this state. Fracking (the informal term for hydraulic fracturing) has been used to extract oil and gas resources in the U.S. and other countries around the world. Gas corporations have already bought drilling leases in several counties in this state, including Lee, Chatham, and Moore. In a statement, the governor said that the law will spur economic development and “job creation.” However, these projected benefits are overshadowed by the damage done to the environment, our citizenry, and our future. McCrory claimed that “the expansion of our energy sector will not come at a cost to our precious environment.” But his decision not to veto EMA shows that he does not have the best interests of the people and environment of this state in mind. Evidence of this disregard was his connection with Duke Energy who was responsible for the coal ash spill in the Dan River last year. McCrory held stock in Duke holdings a few months before the incident, which he failed to mention to the state ethics commission. Since he identifies with corporations and the 1%, he was also too slow to pressure Duke to correct the faulty coal ash pits and repair the damage to the environment.

Two of our concerns with fracking are the huge amount and sources of water used in the process, and the disposal of the contaminated waste. The 4.4 million gallons of water needed every two to five days will be taken from North Carolina’s rivers and groundwater. One of the more frightening parts of fracking is the distribution of contaminated water. 5-90% of this water remains underground or in tanker trucks, disposed of at treatment plants, reinjected underground at disposal

wells, held in containment ponds (remember Duke Energy’s failure with containment ponds), or recycled and used in other wells. Most of these methods lead to increased probabilities of groundwater contamination.

A study conducted by scientists at Duke University found that levels of flammable methane gas in drinking water wells increased to risky levels when those wells were close to natural gas wells. The group tested 68 groundwater wells in the Marcellus and Utica shale drilling areas in Pennsylvania and New York. 60 of the wells were tested for dissolved gas. While most of the wells contained methane, samples from the ones closest to the drilling wells had, on average, 17 times the level of methane more than the ones farther away. High levels of methane in groundwater have been linked to explosions of houses near fracking sites.

Methane-polluted water is only part of the problem. One portion of the EMA makes it illegal to let the public know about chemicals used in fracking, such as benzene, lead, and radium. These chemicals can also contaminate drinking water in wells. The consequences of exposure to these agents can include anemia, irregular menstrual cycles, leukemia, damage to the central nervous system, harm to children’s neurological development, and a host of other ailments. McCrory knows the possible dangers of fracking. The reason why he’s gambling with the environment of North Carolina and the health of its citizens is for his own personal gain and for the private capitalist profits of his political benefactors, the corporate energy giants.

The title for this article came from a little rhyme that one of the authors made up as a child: “What cha going to do when the well runs dry, sit right down and drink my tears as I cry.” We hope the readers of this article will do a lot more than sit and cry. We the people need to fight this capitalist example of “profits over people” by supporting the FRAC Act (the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act), which would make it illegal for energy companies to hide the chemicals used in fracking and get rid of its exemption from the Safe Drinking Act. We need to inform others about the dangers of fracking so we can build a mass movement that will possess the strength through unity to vote into office politicians that will protect our land and water, homes and citizens, and to ensure that these politicians will not be swayed by the corporations but remain on the side of the people.



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