Several hundred people filled the floor of Ramsey Center at Western Carolina University, nearly all of them opposing rules that would make fracking possible in North Carolina. Paul Clark/Carolina Public Press

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Agency: More than 217,000 comments submitted on draft rules

Press release from the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources:

RALEIGHThe North Carolina Mining and Energy Commission’s meetings scheduled for Thursday and Friday have been postponed to allow hearing officers more time to develop a report on oil and natural gas exploration.

The full commission will meet to consider the natural gas report starting Nov. 6-7, and have also scheduled meetings, if necessary, for Nov. 14 and Nov. 17. All the meetings are scheduled for 9 a.m. in the Ground Floor Hearing Room of the Archdale Building, 512 North Salisbury St., Raleigh.

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The November meetings are being used primarily for the full commission to consider a report on the draft rules for oil and natural gas exploration. The report is being produced by three of the commission’s members who served as hearing officers during four public hearings. The report will include documentation about each public hearing and consider the comments made during the four hearings and a public comment period from July 15-Sept. 30.

A total of 217,285 comments on the draft rules for oil and natural gas exploration have been counted by staff from the N.C. Division of Energy, Mineral and Land Resources, who serve the commission. Staff members have not yet tabulated the number of people who commented, but say that the way the comments were counted an individual letter could contain multiple comments. The number of people commenting is less than the overall number of comments. Comments received supported and criticized the draft rules. Comments were received orally and via email, traditional mail and by petition.

Members of the state agency, part of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, have been working since the conclusion of the public comment period to organize the comments together so the hearing officers can more efficiently consider them and respond to comments with similar subject matter together. The hearing officers will consider all comments made during the public comment period. The commission’s decision to postpone the original meeting date was prompted in part by a greater-than-expected number of comments, particularly in the final few days of the comment period, said Vikram Rao, chairman of the commission.

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Prior to the Nov. 6 meeting, the Division of Energy, Mineral and Land Resources plans to post the report online at the webpage devoted to the state Mining and Energy Commission: http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mining-and-energy-commission/.

Before taking up the hearing officers’ report Nov. 6, the Mining and Energy Commission plans to discuss the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League’s formal petition requesting the commission develop rules to control and monitor air emissions during oil and natural gas operations.

Angie Newsome

Angie Newsome is the executive director and editor of Carolina Public Press. Contact her at (828) 774-5290 or e-mail her at anewsome@carolinapublicpress.org.

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