N.C. fracking can be done safely, bring economic prosperity

From Mark Cares, an oil field worker who resides in the Raleigh-Durham metro area:

Safety and quality assurance are hallmarks of American-made products. Our automobiles, foods and myriad other items are subjected to tests, examined by inspectors, and must adhere to the highest standards before they reach the marketplace.

The same is true of oil and gas. At every step of the drilling and production process, there are state and federal regulators to demand adherence to rules designed to protect people and the environment.

Such is the case with hydraulic fracturing, often called fracking. Since the technology was introduced in the 1940s, it has been the subject of numerous studies. To date, there has been no confirmed case of fracking operations contaminating groundwater.

Yet despite this fact, hysteria over fracking spreads like wildfire whenever new energy-rich areas are considered for development. These concerns are overblown.

Consider the following:

More than one million U.S. wells have been fracked in the past 60+ years. Because fracking occurs below the drinking water aquifer and impermeable rock, groundwater is not affected. In North Carolina, the energy-rich formation is 5,000-6,000 feet below the surface, which is nearly a mile below potable water supplies.

I also have witnessed the economic benefits of fracking. According to an analysis by IHS Global Insight, shale and oil and gas development involving fracking will create 3.3 million U.S. jobs by 2020 and add $468 billion to the nation’s gross domestic product annually. The analysis shows North Carolina stands to gain more than 35,000 jobs by 2020, many of which pay twice the national average salary.

Most North Carolinians are aware of these benefits. In a telephone poll conducted by Harris Interactive in March, 92 percent agreed that harnessing North Carolina’s energy bounty would create jobs. More than half (52 percent) said they support oil and gas development.

Energy production can lead to greater prosperity for all of us in North Carolina. The underground shale formations in the Deep River Basin could help mineral rights owners pay their bills. Those who own homes, rental property and businesses within and outside the basin’s boundaries could see property values increase.

And most importantly, everyone could pay less for energy. According to one estimate, U.S. shale energy production already has reduced energy costs for every American household by about $1,200 a year.

Further, a risk index used by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce tracks the correlation between U.S. energy supplies and national security. By using fracking to increase domestic energy production, the index shows the United States is reducing risks from abroad, especially the Middle East. As a result, the nation’s future is more secure.

This is not to imply that there no risks. People can make mistakes and accidents can occur. Fortunately, North Carolina is wisely taking a thoughtful approach to oil and gas production, considering safeguards to protect people and the environment.

Obstacles to energy development are not insurmountable, and they should not be allowed to hinder North Carolina’s energy potential. The facts show fracking can be done safely and reap benefits for the state and the nation.