The Anson County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a five-year moratorium on the process of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, for natural gas.
The commissioners voted on the moratorium after a public hearing on the matter was held during the regular monthly meeting Tuesday night. The commissioners’ meeting room was full for the hearing and vote, with some citizens standing in the hallway to hear the vote.
Commission Chair Anna Baucom started off the public hearing by asking county attorney Scott Forbes to explain to the audience exactly what the moratorium means.
“I think it’s an exercise in futility but we have to do what we can do,” Baucom said. “The state General Assembly seems determined that fracking is going to happen.”
Forbes explained that the purpose of the moratorium is ultimately to protect Anson County and its citizens. The moratorium states, “the Anson County Board of Commissioners finds that the extraction of natural gas in Anson County’s rural and agricultural environment poses a significant threat to the health, safety and welfare of residents, neighborhoods and natural features; and … the board finds that significant environmental, community and human health impacts have resulted from commercial natural gas developments in other states.”
“Allowing this exploration for natural gas will allow toxins into our air and water,” Forbes said. “It will also cost taxpayers in the form of wear and tear on our roads and our environment.”
All of the citizens who spoke during the public hearing were in favor of the moratorium, citing health and environmental risks to the county.
Deb Arneson, who said she lives in the Deep Creek community, pointed out that her community is on the list to be fracked. “The local landowners on Gulledge Road can tell you, our road is already full of potholes from the logging trucks,” she said. “Fracking has already destroyed the peace and quiet in other states.”
Commissioner Jim Sims said that Anson County is in a unique position. “The Triassic Basin, I believe it’s called, is right in the middle of Anson County,” he said. “It’s huge and it’s going to be very difficult when they start fracking to avoid us. We have much more to lose than other counties.”
Neeva Helms, a legislative assistant from Rep. Mark Brody’s office, said she was present to “listen and take notes,” and report back to Brody.
Rufus Getzen of Wadesboro spoke next, saying he spent 30 years working with geologic water. “I know something about fracking,” he said. “It has been done safely — but not always.”
“No matter how safe it may be,” he added, “you’ll still have chemicals pumping back into the atmosphere.”
His wife, Beverley Getzen, also spoke in favor of the moratorium. She, too, spent a long career working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “This is a case where further study is definitely required,” she said, pointing out that pollution caused by fracking would result in local farmers being unable to feed livestock. “The profits will be in these companies’ pockets, not ours,” she said. “The General Assembly is supporting the needs of a few over the health of all of us.”
Foyle Hightower of Wadesboro said he didn’t understand why the General Assembly “is in such a hurry” to approve fracking, when the state’s natural gas supply will only last three to five years. “We have a lot going for us in Anson County, and one of those things is our water supply,” he said. He added he hopes that having the Pee Dee Wildlife Refuge will cause the federal government to get involved to protect that land.
Twelve-year-old Justin Lee of Ansonville spoke to the commissioners as well. “From what I understand, fracking is detrimental to what I love to do, like hunting and fishing,” he said.
Denise Lee, also of Ansonville, praised the commissioners for creating the moratorium and told them the Ansonville Town Council had unanimously voted to support the moratorium at their meeting the previous night.
“Too many of our young people are leaving already,” Lee said. “Let’s not give them another reason.”
Terry Rogers of Pathways to Peace Ministries stated that “we are stewards of God’s land.” “For just a few dollars, they want to destroy all that,” he said. “I don’t want to repeat what’s happened in Texas, Colorado, Ohio and the other states that have allowed fracking.”
Therese Vick of the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League commended the commissioners “for taking this courageous step.” She said she regularly attends the mining and energy commission meetings in Raleigh, and that there was recently a bill in consideration that was set to pass. “Because Halliburton came in through the back door and objected, it was pulled off the agenda,” she said.
After the public hearing was closed, Baucom said, “I think you all need to understand that this bus is being driven by the state and they could squash us like a bug. But this is what we can do.”
She also cautioned county residents to investigate and be sure they know who owns the mineral rights to their properties.
Commissioner Jarvis Woodburn motioned for the approval of the moratorium, and it was subsequently approved, 6-0, with Commissioner Harold Smith absent from the meeting.