Residents hope to speak at public meeting on fracking

by: Stephanie Coueignoux Updated:

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ANSON COUNTY, N.C. - Residents in Sanford are hoping they’ll get a chance to voice their opinions on hydraulic fracturing drilling at a scheduled public meeting that is the second of four such gatherings planned by the state Mining and Energy Commission.

The hearing will be held Friday evening. It follows one held Wednesday in Raleigh that nearly 400 people attended.

Channel 9 learned Friday morning that the scheduled meeting could be postponed. James Womack, the man who is set to chair Friday night’s meeting and a member of the Mining and Energy Commission, said that if he isn’t able to get law enforcement to attend the event for crowd control, he will cancel the public hearing.

Womack told Channel 9 that the sheriff’s office, the police department, and the Department of Public Safety have all refused to send officers to the public hearing.

Womack said Rep. Mike Stone, who will attend the meeting, has requested that two state legislative police officers accompany him and another representative. According to Womack, the law dictates that if capitol police show up, local law enforcement are required to also attend as back up.

Womack is concerned about public safety. He’s expecting 700 people at the meeting and said they have already been warned about one protester who wanted to “cause controversy.”

He said a final call will be made at 3 p.m.

Anson County is one of 14 counties in the state where fracking could occur and residents there are worried about the impact on public health.

Those anti-fracking protesters told Channel 9 that they’re still going to show up tonight, even if the hearing is cancelled.

Fracking opponents will hold a news conference before the hearing begins Friday in Sanford in Lee County, one of the places where scientists believe pockets of natural gas exist in layers of shale.

Gov. Pat McCrory signed a law this summer clearing the way for permits to be issued as early as next spring for the drilling method that involves injecting water, sand and chemicals to break apart underground rocks so oil and gas can escape.