Bill amendment leaves gas drilling start date open-ended

Posted May 27, 2014
Updated May 28, 2014

— The start of natural gas drilling in North Carolina would no longer be set in stone if a bill approved by the House Public Utilities and Energy Committee on Tuesday becomes law.

The new version of Senate Bill 786 scraps the July 1, 2015, start date proposed by the Senate. Instead, it authorizes officials to issue permits 60 days after the state finalizes rules for drilling, including the controversial process of hydraulic fracturing, also known as "fracking."

Environmentalists say that could mean fracking would start in North Carolina sooner, rather than later.

Sen. Bob Rucho, R-Mecklenburg, co-sponsor of the bill, said the regulations will set a positive example for the rest of the nation.

"What I think you'll see is the state-of-the-art rules and regulations that will be modeled for the rest of the country," he said.

Fracking is used by the energy industry to extract oil and gas from shale rock by injecting high-pressure mixtures of water, sand or gravel and chemicals. The practice, which has sparked widespread criticism from environmentalists, will diversify the state's economy and create jobs, Rucho said.

But opponents say those jobs will likely go to experienced out-of-state workers. Despite postponing the start date, Senate Bill 786 still takes an aggressive approach to fracking.

"I'm troubled by the fast-tracking of this bill," said Rep. Pricey Harrison, D-Guilford.

Many of North Carolina's shale resources are located near aquifers, and drilling could potentially contaminate drinking water, Harrison said.

"Fracking has contaminated water and threatened public health and safety across the country, and it has no place in our state," Elizabeth Ouzts, state director of Environment North Carolina, said in a statement. 

"The last thing lawmakers should do is exempt fracking rules from 12 months of legislative review and ensure we start fracking no matter what in 2015," Ouzts said. ""The House has stood up to the Senate's attempt to frack-at-all-costs before. We're still counting on them to put on the brakes on the rush-to-frack and help protect our waters."

The committee passed three additional amendments on Tuesday, including one requiring the state geologist to inform the state health director of additional chemicals to test for in water samples. This information would be shared with local health departments but kept confidential.

Another amendment strengthens a provision commonly known as the "bad actors clause," which tasks the Department of Environment and Natural Resources with reviewing the compliance history of permit applicants and allows the department to deny those with a history of violations.

Lawmakers also raised questions about the disposal of wastewater and the ban on disclosing the exact "recipe" of fracking chemicals, with an exception for medical emergencies, where the chemicals can be disclosed to certain medical personnel when treating patients affected by them.

Senate Bill 786 now goes to the House Finance Committee.


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  • Grand Union May 30, 2014

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    And water flows through aquifers quite slowly......and steel rusts slowly and concrete cracks slowly over time...........
    The fact that we have only a few problems so far is utterly meaningless......the gas and its profiteers will be long gone by the time the full problems become apparent.

  • Grand Union May 30, 2014

    Do you recall how the tea party mocked the ACA after someone foolishly said they had to pass the bill to see whats in it?

    Well here we have them doing something even worse......they are passing a bill before its real content has not even been written yet....AND making it a crime to reveal what poisons are going to be used!

    And really, do they imagine for one second that the other fracking companies don't know whats in their rivals magic sauce? You think they won't simply pay some drilling contractor a few K for a milk jug of the stuff?

    So reality is the only people they are hiding it from is you and I....co-incidently the only folks who are likely to find it in our drinking water.

    And could someone tell what the huge hurry is? the gas has been there for millions of years and will last a few years at most and it value is at a historical low. Why on earth would we be encouraging anyone to touch it until the price is much much higher?

  • goldenosprey May 28, 2014

    The bottom line is, fracking will bring jobs. Think of all the scientists and medical personnel needed to treat folks with high concentrations of methane and benzene in their water and air. Thing of all the brownfields remediation teams that will have to clean up water tables bubbling with frack juice. All the road pavers who will have to repair the roads damaged by constant fracking trucks. All the ER doctors treating the people injured in road accidents (traffic injuries go up substantially near frack sites). Engineers and contractors will have to build a new generation of earthquake-proof buildings. I'm tellin' ya it will be a bonanza.

    Will it be worth it? Sure, if you are upwind and upstream in your Charlotte mansion!

  • Djofraleigh Anderson May 28, 2014
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    I'm against fracking in NC for the sake of water safety. Other states are ahead of us in production of gas already. The USA is going to be king of energy production soon, unless the technology gets out.

  • robkeehner May 28, 2014

    Water is the universal solvent if you don't understand what that means then look it up and make yourself understand. Fracking adds chemicals to water, millions of gallons of which are pumped into the ground and left forever. This means it's not contaminating water locally, it's contaminating ALL WATER for the life of chemicals. If those compounds last a week, well that's not good, but some may last hundreds of years or more. Osmosis, Brownian motion, underground flow, means these chemicals eventually contaminate everyone's water all over the globe. There is a reason a special addendum to the clean water act had to be made to make fracking happen. It's bad news and a poor decision.

  • Cabe Merritt May 28, 2014
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    Tweet Sen. Bob Rucho and let him know what a bad idea this is here.....

  • Forthe Newssite May 28, 2014
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    You'd rather sell YOUR soul and many others to the GA? How is that any different? It's not.

  • sjb2k1 May 28, 2014

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    i assume you'll be first in line to let them drill near your house?

  • iopsyc May 28, 2014

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    An AP review found that there are many cases of water contamination. There were more than 50 cases confirmed in PA between 2010 and 2012.

    50 > 0

  • Terry Watts May 28, 2014
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    You're the one that said there was ZERO contamination. And I have disproved your statement... Care to make anymore erroneous statements on the subject???