Dakota’s research internship on fracking in NC

My name is Dakota Koenigsberg and I’m a senior at UNC studying Environmental Studies and Economics.  This semester, at the Coastal Studies Institute, I’ve been conducting research on hydraulic fracturing regulation in North Carolina under the supervision of Dr. Andrew Keeler.  Specifically, I’ve analyzed the draft rules developed by the Mining and Energy Commission (MEC), comparing my findings to the regulatory experience of the Marcellus Shale states (PA, OH, NY, and WV).  My aim is to explore all potential areas of regulation, while ensuring to include the positions of all stakeholders, including the natural gas industry and environmental groups.  The final product of my internship, a research paper, will provide an objective, well-organized, and comprehensible resource to educate legislators and the general public alike on fracking in our state.

Towards the end of November, I’ll be serving as a panelist at a League of Women Voters program where I’ll be informing their members of the proposed regulatory framework for fracking in North Carolina.  I’ll also be meeting with Mr. James Womack of North Carolina’s MEC to discuss the draft rules and, in particular, the commission’s rationale for including or excluding certain provisions in the rules.

My research is expansive, but here are three notable findings:

  • North Carolina is conforming to the existing trend of requiring chemical disclosure for fracking fluids, but providing exemptions for trade secrets.  Trade secrets allow fracking operators to hide the most concerning of chemical additives as confidential business information.
  • The MEC opted to not write an air quality regulation into the draft rules.  The EPA’s green-completion rule will come into effect next year, but many of the exploratory and wildcat wells that are likely to be drilled in North Carolina will be exempt from this requirement.
  • The current severance tax rate in North Carolina (0.05 cents per thousand cubic feet) is by far the lowest of any state with a severance tax.  MEC’s draft rules show their intention to revise this tax rate, but if it isn’t increased substantially, the vast majority of revenue from natural gas extraction will accrue to the industry, leaving little revenue to the state.

I’ll continue to pursue this topic next semester for an honors thesis project, which will synthesize my existing research to form policy recommendations.





Published by

Lindsay Dubbs

UNC Inst for the Environment