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Environmental activists block entrance to North Carolina chemical plant

July 12, 2013
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Photo credit: chris willemsen/iStockphoto/Thinkstock

Members of North Carolina-based environmental group Croatan Earth First blocked the entrance to Momentive Specialty Chemicals' facility in Morganton, N.C., last week during a demonstration to protest hydraulic fracturing, wsoctv.com reported.

Several dozen environmentalists gathered early in the morning on July 8 outside the Momentive Specialty Chemicals plant, blocking the entrance and the exit of the facility right after the beginning of the shift. Protesters erected two large wooden towers in the driveway and placed a member of the group atop each tower, reports said. During the protest, officers from the Morganton Public Safety office and the Burke County Sheriff's Office were present on site.

Momentive Specialty Chemicals manufactures products that are used in fracking and this is what sparked the opposition from environmentalists. According to a press statement from the chemical company, the facility's proppant technology improves the efficiency of oil and gas operations in the hydraulic fracturing process. Proppants are coated with resins and serve as an adhesive to bond the materials together, creating conductive paths for gas and oil to flow more efficiently from the well.

However, Maria Rowan, spokesperson for Croatan Earth First, explained that the protesters did not want any fracking operations in North Carolina and were against the idea of supporting hydraulic fracturing elsewhere, so they blocked the facility as an expression of their opposition against the company facilitating fracking.

Initially, the protest was peaceful and police officers allowed it to proceed, but as the day progressed the Morganton facility had to cancel a delivery because of the demonstration. At that point, officers asked protesters to move and gave them a deadline to withdraw from the property. When they failed to do so, arrests were made. According to Chief Mark Tolbert, from Morganton Public Safety, several people tried to run away and resisted the police officers. A total of nine people were cited with trespassing, disorderly conduct, damage to property or resisting a public officer. Later on, another protester was taken into custody -- a woman was arrested when she eventually came down from one of the towers after spending several hours there.

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After the demonstration, Rowan stated that she hoped the protest had managed to get the message across. The group pledged to continue disrupting Momentive Specialty Chemicals' business if it continued to support hydraulic fracturing.

John Kompa, a spokesperson for Columbus, Ohio-based Momentive Specialty Chemicals, told the Associated Press that the company was committed to providing innovative and safe solutions that increased the production efficiency of oil and gas operations. Kompa added that it was the company's belief that hydraulic fracturing was a highly engineered and controlled procedure, which posed no real threat to the environment if all industry standards were met.

Currently, there is a memorandum on fracking operations in North Carolina that expires in 2015. Industry experts predict that state lawmakers are likely to allow companies to utilize the technique to extract natural gas from rock shale formations after the expiry of the memorandum.

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