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Environmental group protests at Morganton plant

MORGANTON – Members of a North Carolina-based environmental group blocked the entrance and exit to a Burke County plant Monday in a protest against fracking.

Several dozen people from Croatan Earth First gathered shortly before 7:30 a.m. outside the Momentive Specialty Chemicals plant on Industrial Drive in Morganton. They set up three large towers in the driveway, with a member of the group atop each tower.

Both the Morganton Public Safety office and the Burke County Sheriff’s Office had officers at the scene, but Morganton police said they had no reports of arrests being made.

Morganton police Chief Mark Tolbert told the Associated Press, “The company has indicated that they are OK with the present state of things. It is private property, so it is their call to make with regard to any actions.”

In a news release, Croatan Earth First said it was protesting at the plant because Momentive produces resin-coated proppants, a chemical used in fracking, the process in which natural gas is released from underground shale deposits. Opponents of fracking say it releases methane gas into the atmosphere and can pollute groundwater supplies.

State lawmakers in North Carolina are considering permitting fracking as early as 2015 in the Cumnock Shale Basin, a geological area in Lee, Moore and Chatham counties northeast of Charlotte.

Police say the protest began after workers arrived for the day shift. A delivery by at least one truck was blocked by the protesters, several of whom were lying in the driveway.

A call to the company’s headquarters in Columbus, Ohio, was not immediately returned Monday. But a company spokesman, John Kompa, told the Associated Press that “MSC is committed to providing innovative, safe and effective solutions designed to help increase the efficiency of oil and gas operations.”

Kompa told the Associated Press that the company believes fracking “is a safe, sophisticated, highly engineered and controlled procedure,”

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