The controversial energy process known as fracking was the focus in Raleigh on Wednesday. It's the start of a series of hearings that will end in Cullowhee next month.
State officials are taking public comment in the final phase for making the rules, and clearing the way for the harvest of natural gas in North Carolina.
Fracking is going to happen in the tar heel state. The governor has already signed the Energy Modernization Act, so fracking permits will be issued. But it's not clear whether natural gas companies will bother with Western North Carolina.
Outside the auditorium at N.C. State, protestors making their stand on fracking, crystal clear. While inside, public testimony, estimated at about ten to one against the controversial practice of shooting water, sand and chemicals deep underground and forcing natural gas trapped in shale to the surface.
The energy industry says it's an efficient method for harvesting clean fuel. But opponents say it's a hazardous practice that damages the environment and even causes earthquakes.
Brevard College Professor Jim Reynolds is helping with freshman orientation Wednesday. His academic focus is geology, the study of solid earth.
Dr. Reynolds shows us a geological map of North Carolina, and explains the science of how our western mountains were formed over the past billion years. He says the shale once here, has long since cooked and been squeezed out of the metamorphic rock below us. "There are so many places in this country where there's abundant gas in sedimentary rock, that this has got to be on the absolute bottom of the list of places to look for natural gas," says Dr. Reynolds.
That does not mean gas companies won't do some testing to find out for themselves, but Dr. Reynolds believes that will cost them more than it's worth. "They're going to have to prove that there's a deposit worth exploiting, and I just don't think it's going to be there," he says. "The geology says the likelihood of any success in Western North Carolina is pretty close to zero, if not absolute zero," he adds.
The fourth and final public hearing will be held in Cullowhee. It's at Western Carolina University, Friday, September 12th from 5:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m.