The North Carolina Mining and Energy Commission (the Commission) voted last week on fracking standards governing safe drilling distances from homes, streams and other sensitive landmarks. With only one dissenting vote, the Commission voted to adopt 650 feet as the minimum safe distance a natural gas well can be drilled from buildings, homes and water wells. The Commission also approved a 200-foot safety buffer for fracking from streams, wetlands and flood plains. These setback distances are measured from the wellhead at the surface, where a heavy industrial operation must be set up during the drilling and fracking process. While not the most stringent, the new setback rules approved by the Commission are some of the toughest in the United States. The setback rules do, however, contain provisions that allow for a waiver of or variance from the setback should the applicant meet certain requirements. A copy of the setback rules approved by the Commission can be found here.
Fracking rules approved by the Commission are recommendations to the General Assembly, which will have final say over North Carolina's fracking regulations. Until those standards are given final approval by the General Assembly, fracking remains under a moratorium in North Carolina.