Drilling fast-track gets tentative Senate approval

Posted February 26, 2013

— The Senate gave key approval Tuesday to legislation rolling back some of the safeguards in the state's natural gas drilling law.

Senate Bill 76 passed its second reading by a 38-10 vote. Although it passed a third reading by a voice vote, staffers realized after the fact that votes are required on separate days because it involves revenue.

A final Senate vote is expected Wednesday, after which, the bill will head to the House.

The bill makes many changes to Senate Bill 820, the 2012 law opening the state to gas drilling. Most notably, it removes the requirement that state lawmakers must approve rules before the first well can be drilled.

Instead, it gives the Department of Environment and Natural Resources the authority to start issuing permits on March 1, 2015, without the legislature's say-so.

"Why do we need to set this date? Because the energy industry will not come to North Carolina and invest all the time, energy and resources necessary to develop this industry unless they know the moratorium is going to be lifted," said bill sponsor Sen. Buck Newton, R-Nash.

The date is five months after the October 2014 deadline lawmakers set last year for the DENR and the state Mining and Energy Commission to establish regulations for the drilling industry.

"If we want them to come, and we want them to come sooner rather than later, we have to set the stage now," Newton said. "If we sit back and continue to say, 'Let's wait a little longer. Let's drag this out a little bit more,' all we're doing is pushing the jobs and the economic development further down the road."

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Other changes in the bill include removing the state geologist and water and air experts from the state Mining and Energy Commission, allowing drillers to inject production waste fluids back into the ground, repealing the law requiring "land men" to register with the state and streamlining the permitting process to a single permit, removing checkpoints at which DENR could look for problems.

Sen. Floyd McKissick, D-Durham, said he worries that the changes will put property owners and state water supplies at risk. He tried to amend the bill to reinstate some of the Senate Bill 820 regulations, but the effort was derailed by a parliamentary maneuver and never got to a vote.

"We need to tread carefully when making wholesale revisions," McKissick said. "Let the rules and regulations be developed and take it cautiously."

Sen. Bob Rucho, R-Mecklenburg, said many of the drilling restrictions included in the previous bill weren't warranted and need to be discarded. He noted that North Carolina is the only state with a land men's registry, and the Secretary of State's Office could handle representatives of drilling companies.

Comparing the the swap of upfront costs for the promise of future riches from gas drilling to the Wimpy character in "Popeye" cartoons, Sen. Mike Woodard, D-Durham, asked that local governments be able to charge drillers taxes to pay for the damage to local roads their trucks and equipment cause. The effort failed by a 34-14 vote.

Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, D-Orange, questioned the claims that drilling would produce thousands of jobs, noting someone in the natural gas industry said North Carolina as little gas to obtain.

"If there were no gas under the ground, Sen. Kinnaird, they wouldn’t come looking for it," said Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph. "They know where the gas is."


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  • rdcress Feb 28, 2013

    There are plenty of regulations and guidelines that exist and will exist after this legislation passes. Fracking has been in existence for many years and there has not been a single documented instance of water contamination, earthquake, or other "scare mongering" catastrophe. Certainly there need to be rules and guidelines in the process and there are plenty in place already. It's time to get rid of the excessive and non-beneficial regulations and bureaucrats. Fear, ignorance, and media hype have cost us excessively in the past. The liberals continually chant the mantra of moving forward but seldom want to allow free enterprise the ability to benefit individuals. It's time to truly move forward and let the people produce and the economy grow. The more regulations and bureaucrats thrown in the mix the move opportunity for corruption and cronyism. Let's keep it simple and transparent.

  • linkz145 Feb 27, 2013

    Ocean Acidification Ocean Acidification Ocean Acidification

  • torchhappysean Feb 27, 2013

    Well, well... It looks like big money is going to win again.. When are our representatives going to actually REPRESENT the lowly citizens of this state instead of treating us like lowly peasants???

  • JohnFLob Feb 27, 2013

    Hey why don't we see if we can entice 'green energy' companies to North Carolina? Then we can rest assured there will not be any environmental contamination. Nothing but pure air, water, and soil.


  • bgibson3 Feb 27, 2013

    Let the NC Senate and House know whichever way you feel:

    Senate email addresses:


    House email addresses:


  • cruzinlong Feb 27, 2013

    Very good read below:


    Potential hazards, earthquake info. included

  • Come On_Seriously Feb 27, 2013

    Other changes in the bill include removing the state geologist and water and air experts from the state Mining and Energy Commission. An amendment that local governments be able to charge drillers taxes to pay for the damage to local roads their trucks and equipment cause was voted down also.

    They insist on getting rid of every individual who has a brain not tuned to the conservative mantra and are rolling back safeguards that were inserted to get enough votes on board (in the first place and to override a smart veto), and now they're going back to what they wanted to do in the first place- allow a handful of companies to drill without worrying about pesky regulations or safeguards, and with taxpayers- not drillers- on the hook for damages and problems.

    This is criminally deceitful and if the governor is a man of integrity, he should never allow it.

  • soulcandy Feb 27, 2013

    The hazards of fracking are real but the politicians are being courted by energy company with lots of money to throw around. Couple that with a complete lack of accountability in government and this is what you get. The real question is what are we going to do about these politicians who clearly care nothing about their constituents and are only there for personal gain? We need to remind them who the actually work for.

  • linkz145 Feb 27, 2013

    Pat McCrory worked for Duke Energy for 28 years and still holds their stock and has a vested interest to benefit financially from Fracking. Clearly Renewable energies are a threat to big oil and gas and will stop at nothing to continue the practice of polluting our environment with fossil fuels.

  • bgibson3 Feb 27, 2013

    Doing this on the "fast track" is going to mean that down the road the citizens of NC will be treated "half fast". If the NC legislators don't protect NC citizens by putting in strict laws and policies up front, the Energy Industry and it's lawyers will take advantage of North Carolinians, reap the profits and leave us to clean up the mess.