A collection of short documentaries describing the dangers of hydraulic fracturing was screened Saturday in downtown Fayetteville.
The true stories were told by residents in states where oil and natural gas are being extracted from deep below the earth through a controversial process commonly referred to as “fracking.”
In one Colorado community, parents said their children developed asthma and allergies and had nose bleeds as a result of living next door to stations that burn off excess gas or condense it for transport.
In a Texas town, church members talked about the division between those who are earning money from royalty payments generated by horizontal drilling.
“But for those who are getting sick, it has become a curse to our community,” one church member told the camera.
In North Carolina, Republican lawmakers were hoping this year to join the energy boom that has brought new wealth and job growth in those states.
But two pending lawsuits over how North Carolina’s fracking rules were drafted have led a Wake County Superior Court judge earlier this month to temporarily halt the issuance of any drilling permits until the state Supreme Court decides the issue this summer.
The audience of 15 people who went to the Cameo Art House to watch the 36-minute “Fracking Stories” film was sympathetic to its anti-fracking message, and some expressed concerns over the news last week that core samples under a state contract would be drilled in Fayetteville soon to determine whether oil and gas deposits exist.
In the film, the residents call themselves “fracktivists,” because they have actively sought to restrict the industry in their backyards.
Donna Andrews, a Fayetteville resident, asked if Fayetteville officials have concerned themselves with taking the same course against fracking.
Denise Bruce, the green action coordinator for Sustainable Sandhills, said state laws would preempt any local rules that would seek to outlaw the fracking industry from operating within a jurisdiction.
“Are you saying they can do what they want?” Andrews asked.
Bruce answered, “Pretty much.”
Sustainable Sandhills, a Fayetteville-based environmental nonprofit, was responsible for bringing “Fracking Stories,” which has scheduled a repeat screening for June 4 at 7 p.m. at the Cumberland County Headquarters Library.
Opponents say fracking is fraught with risks that include industrial accidents, shoddy well construction and air and water pollution.
Methane, the main ingredient in natural gas, is harmless and odorless, but high volumes of water laced with a toxic soup of chemicals and sand are used to dislodge the gas from fractured shale formations thousands of feet below the ground.
The process produces wastewater, and some toxic gases can escape the wellhead.
Geological studies indicate a shale basin extending through parts of Lee, Moore and Chatham counties have the most potential for gas exploration, and state Republican officials have said horizontal drilling and fracking can be done more safely today, thanks to improved technology and a modern set of rules.
One of Saturday’s audience members, Connie Blacketer, 59, is not convinced those state officials are correct.
“I think everyone needs to become informed so that they will have a really good idea of what this could do to our environment and to our health,” she said.
This article was written by Andrew Barksdale from The Fayetteville Observer, N.C. and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.