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Lee Commissioners may seek fracking ‘timeout’

SANFORD — Lee County commissioners are expected to consider a moratorium this month that could keep fracking out of the county for two years.

Amy Dalrymple, chairwoman of the county Board of Commissioners, said a moratorium similar to the one adopted last month by Chatham County commissioners will be on the Lee County commissioners’ agenda for their Sept. 21 meeting.

“I don’t know how the board is going to vote on it on the 21st, but it’s something the citizens have been calling on us to consider,” she said.

Fracking, which is short for hydraulic fracturing, is a controversial method of horizontal drilling that involves injecting water, sand and chemicals under pressure to fracture rocks and release natural gas. Lee County has gained attention in the debate over fracking because geologists believe prehistoric formations of rock under the county and the surrounding area hold large deposits of natural gas.

Dalrymple said the moratorium will include fracking, but also will cover other forms of mining. It will not be a ban, she said. “It is simply kind of a timeout.”

State law prohibits local governments from banning fracking.

Lee County is considering an update to its land use plan and unified development ordinance, Dalrymple said. The process is a huge undertaking, she said.

“It’s not something you can do overnight,” she said. “It really takes months, if not more than a year.”

The update will include a great deal of research and public input, Dalrymple said.

“The public gets to have their say,” she said. “The bottom line is their opinions matter.”

James Crawford, chairman of the Chatham County Board of Commissioners, said his county also is working on its land use plan. He said the main reason for the moratorium is water.

“The process takes millions of gallons of water, and Chatham County is susceptible to drought,” he said.

Crawford said he also is concerned about possible groundwater contamination from fracking fluid that is injected into the ground. The layers of shale rock that would be fractured are shallower in central North Carolina than other states where fracking has been taking place.

Chatham County officials also need to do more research on mineral rights, Crawford said.

“We’ve got to exercise our due diligence as a county,” he said. “We just want people to know that until that happens, we’re going to just hold off.”

Crawford said he realizes fracking is an emotional issue. “If it comes, we need to protect our people as a county,” he said.

In related news, Longmont fracking ban appeal at Supreme Court crossroads.

This article was written by Steve DeVane from The Fayetteville Observer, N.C. and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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