SANFORD: Council discusses impact of hydraulic fracturing

May. 29, 2014 @ 05:03 AM

The Sanford City Council looked at the possible environmental and economic impact of hydraulic fracturing in Lee County during its law and finance meeting on Wednesday.

Brooks Gage and Bill Tatum from the city's Environmental Affairs Board asked the council to adopt a resolution it had drafted listing a number of concerns regarding fracking in Sanford and Lee County. The council took no action during the meeting, but asked city staff to research the concerns.

The resolution noted that while fracking produces increased revenue for some landowners, negative impacts from fracking have the potential to decrease property values, even for landowners not involved with the process.

"If fracking is really coming to Lee County, we need to benefit from it," said Councilman Chas Post. "It's disconcerting to me that they would come here and not pay to play."

Sanford Mayor Chet Mann agreed that if Sanford and Lee County allowed companies to come in, they should reap the benefits of any drilling that takes place.

"I'm all for the jobs. I'm for the investment," Mann said. "I'm not for the state taking our investment for our risk and deploying it at the beach or the mountains. If the gas comes from Sanford, then the money should come here."

Councilman Samuel Gaskins cited concerns about seismic activity connected to fracking, which the resolution said could cause structural damages to homes and businesses, as particularly troubling.

"There's a nuclear reactor close by that is very well within the range of being affected by seismic activity," Gaskins said, speaking of the Shearon Harris Nuclear Power Plant in Wake County.

The resolution also asked the city to look into possible increases in traffic accidents and water consumption associated with fracking, as well as chemical byproducts that may be left over.

Tatum said there is potential for great benefits from fracking, citing a $100 million increase in the tax base of Bradford County, a fracking hub in Pennsylvania.

According to Tatum, the North Carolina General Assembly has taken measures, such as capping property taxes at 8 percent and eliminating impact fees, to direct such profits to the state and away from the municipalities.

"If Lee County is the epicenter of fracking," Tatum said, "it's about risk and reward. We're taking all the risk and getting no reward."

The council also heard a presentation regarding the Brick Capital Community Development Corporation, which is losing state money from Community Development Block Grants and looking for new sources of funding.

Other items on the agenda:

* Byron Buckels took an oath to fill the unexpired seat of Walter McNeil, who died in March. The term expires December 2015.

* Council heard a proposal to work with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on immigrant integration into community.

* Discussed proposed agreements with the N.C. Department of Transportation regarding roundabouts and beautification projects.