Fracking bill fast tracking in North Carolina

June 2, 2014 1 By Amanda Giasson

Fracking - rules and laws

Drilling for natural gas could begin in the state in 2015.

A 63-52 vote for a Senate bill that will speed up the start of fracking projects in North Carolina (NC), prompted the state’s House lawmakers to give preliminary approval to the bill, ignoring complaints from Democrats who say the bill is being pushed through without enough public knowledge and research, and, if the bill passes, this could lead to permits being issued for the controversial drilling practice in NC next year.

If passed, the bill will lift a moratorium on drilling permits.

Part of the measure that was recently introduced involves an amendment that would enable the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources to start giving out permits 61 days after rules for drilling have been approved. The bill would require NC’s Mining and Energy Commission to finish its 120 rules for hydrofracturing by January 1, 2015 instead of the original July 2015 deadline.

The amendment was introduced by Representative Mike Stone, a Republican from Lee County. Stone said that preliminary approval will allow things to move forward. Stone said that “North Carolina needs the energy independence,” and Lee County needs jobs.

However, democrats like Mecklenburg County Democrat Becky Carney, want the passage of the bill to be slowed down. “I don’t know why there’s a rush unless there’s a line outside this building waiting for a permit to start drilling,” Carney said. “This is a bill that will have extremely long impact on the state. We’ve never been down this road before.”

Democrats pressed Stone, who is a strong supporter of drilling, to name studies that could prove fracking would guarantee new jobs for the people in his county. Furthermore, legislative staff members said that they cannot approximate tax revenues from hydraulic fracturing because the amount of gas that can be recovered economically speaking or when it would begin is unknown.

Environmentalists continue to fight fracking in the state.

Despite House Republicans believing the fracking delay, which has gone on for nearly four years in North Carolina, puts the state at a disadvantage competitively, those who are opposed to the mining practice view the fast tracking of the bill as lawmakers going back on their promise to not allow drilling permits until the appropriate rules (which are still under development) are put in place.

Those against the practice fear that combining hydraulic fracturing with horizontal drilling will contaminate groundwater. Sierra Club State Director Molly Diggins commented that the bill grants the issuing of permits “regardless of whether the rules are adequate or among the best in the country.”

North Carolina isn’t the only state where fast tracking fracking measures are being pushed. A recent bill that would speed up the start of the practice in Illinois was turned down last week.