Cautionary Tales from Robert Nehman: Charlotte, NC

As we drove to our second appearance in Charlotte from Pinehurst, NC, on the STFA Cautionary Tales from Fracked Communities North Carolina Tour, I had time to reflect back on how I became involved in the anti-fracking movement and what brought me to North Carolina…

One afternoon, eighteen months ago, a neighbor knocked on my door and said “Your day is going to get a whole lot worse”.   I learned that a frac sand mining permit had been applied for, just one mile down the road from my rural home, and a rail spur located one mile in the other direction was the ideal spot for a transload facility.  Knowing the detrimental effects on the environment and the rural lifestyle that allowing frac sand mines into the area would have, I, along with many neighbors and county residents quickly took action to prevent the first mine from coming to Allamakee County, Iowa.  As a founding member of the Allamakee County Protectors, I decided to document on video the experiences of nearby families who were already being invaded by frac sand miners to reveal to local officials exactly what needed to be prevented from happening in Allamakee County.  My video “Frac Sand Land”, along with a petition drive and public education efforts by Allamakee County Protectors resulted in a successful bid for an 18 month moratorium on any frac sand mines or related activity, allowing the county time to put protective ordinances in place.  The experience and knowledge I’ve gained over the last eighteen months has driven me to want to educate and inform other citizens that have been or may be impacted by this industry.

After speaking to several people in Charlotte, NC on Thursday evening, it became apparent that people are eager to know more about fracking and frac sand mining.  As I spoke to one gentleman after the evening session, he told me that he had been aware of fracking for some time but had no idea that millions of tons of silica sand formations were being extracted from other areas to be used in the fracking process.  One woman spoke to me about how she lives on a split estate and understands that she does not own her mineral rights.  Many property owners in the crowd had concerns about the status of their own mineral rights.  I encouraged them all to investigate their land abstracts.  Questions were also raised about how to approach elected officials, even though on the day we arrived, Charlotte’s mayor was arrested for corruption!  We tend to put our public officials on a pedestal and often forget that they are working for us, the people, and it is important to lobby your government.  If we don’t, we can’t make a difference on the issues that matter the most to us.

With the recent Duke Energy Coal ash spill, the environmental cost of doing business with dirty energy is fresh in people’s minds. NC is a beautiful state with rolling landscapes and close-knit communities.  If the door is opened to fracking and frac sand mining, the state will be faced with the same issues of clean air, clean water, deforestation and public health concerns as those states who already are being fractured by this industry.

For the last 18 months I have been traveling around to communities trying to make the connection between frac sand mining and fracking.  As I speak with individuals, most people want to know how to unify and organize in order to make a difference.  It starts locally, and with the help of the STFA team and its national sponsors, Americans Against Fracking, Food and Water Watch, Earthworks and others, we are able to unify to speak up with one voice against this industry and its related activities.

We come alive when we are most interrupted.

“Neighbors, not invaders.”