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James Womack, currently serving as a hearing officer on the N.C. Mining and Energy Commission, says that if you think an outright ban on fracking is the right thing for North Carolina, your public comment "doesn't count." (Photo: IndyWeek/Jeremy M. Lange)

State Commissioner: If You Oppose Fracking in North Carolina, Your Comment "Doesn't Count"

“About half are repetitive ‘don’t frack’ comments,” said Commissioner James Womack. “They don’t really count, if you know what I mean.”

Jon Queally, staff writer

As North Caroline makes plans to open itself up to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, public comments are pouring into the Mining and Energy Commission as it prepares to make recommendations to lawmakers about the safety guidelines that should govern the controversial gas drilling in the state.

However, for those telling the commission that fracking shouldn't be approved at all—that there are no amount of safety measures that could curtail the threats from the inherently destructive practice—at least one of the members of the commission, James Womack, has a message in return: Those comments don't count.

According to the News & Observer, of the more than 100,000 that have so far come in expressing input on fracking, approximately half declare support for an outright ban on the controversial drilling that uses enormous amounts of water, sand, and a secret stew of toxic chemicals to obtain gas trapped in shale formations beneath the surface.

And while the commission is charged with accepting and cataloging those public comments, Womack told the newspaper that what he considered "substantive, detailed comments" have been a fraction of the total, but that many more contained general opposition to fracking which he said were not "helpful" to the commission's work.

“About half are repetitive ‘don’t frack’ comments,” Womack said. “They don’t really count, if you know what I mean.”

Beyond an outright ban, many residents in North Carolina have specifically expressed worry about the fracking industry's desire to use so-called "open pits" to store toxic waste-water produced during the drilling process.

Last month, the Center for Biology Diversity blasted North Carolina's process of deliberation around fracking and said the state's rules—as currently proposed—put the people, water, and wildlife of the state at grave risk.

On Saturday, anti-fracking activists from around the world are participating in what they'd dubbed a "Global Frackdown" calling for a moratorium on fracking and demanding that governments at the international, national, and local level respond aggressively to the growing body of evidence that shows that natural gas is neither a "clean" form of energy nor one that can in any way help address the global water crisis or the threat posed by global warming and climate change.

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