Raleigh, N.C. — After two different ads sponsored by conservative groups that support Gov. Pat McCrory went on the air this week, a coalition of environmental advocates has taken to broadcast television with a spot critical of the governor.
The North Carolina Environmental Partnership began airing the 30-second ad in the Raleigh market on Tuesday morning critical of McCrory's support for natural gas drilling legislation. Public records reflecting the size of the buy are not available yet on the Federal Communications Commission's website.
"North Carolina is one of the cleanest and most beautiful states in the nation," an announcer in the ad says. "But fracking could ruin it. Yet Gov. Pat McCrory signed multiple bills to allow fracking. Fracking can pollute our air and threaten our drinking water."
Hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," is a process used to extract natural gas from layers of shale rock. Although it has been used for years in traditional oil-producing areas, the process is controversial in North Carolina and elsewhere because neighbors of potential fracking sites worry about pollution.
Much like the ads by the conservative groups that began airing Monday, the NCEP ad does not explicitly ask people to vote for or against anyone. However, these kinds of third-party, campaign-style ads have become a key part of the election ecosystem. Just like ads aired by campaigns, they can affect poll numbers and how likely voters are to support or oppose a candidate.
"This is the time of year for our annual accountability work," said Mary Maclean Asbill, a lobbyist with the Southern Environmental Law Center, one of the groups that make up the NCEP.
Asbill said the partnership would be airing ads critical of McCrory and some lawmakers with regard to environmental bills. Among the measures referenced in the McCrory ad, she said, was a bill that limits how cities and counties can regulate fracking operations in their communities. There will be direct mail and social media components to the campaign as well, she said.
Future ads, she said, would target supporters of House Bill 765, a package of regulatory reform measures that environmental advocates objected to. One of the provisions allows companies to avoid certain consequences if they "self report" spills or other violations of environmental regulations. The campaign will target the Raleigh, Greensboro and Asheville markets, Asbill said.
It's worth noting that according to the Department of Environmental Quality's website, no business has applied yet to obtain permission to drill for natural gas in the state.
The N.C. Republican Party took up for McCrory in a response to the ad, dismissing the ad as "fear mongering and peddling false information," noting that even some Democrats support fracking.
"It's no surprise that radical environmental groups are attacking the governor even before he's an announced candidate because they know he has a stellar record of pursuing an all-of-the-above energy strategy to safely create jobs, lower electricity rates and contribute to this nation's energy independence," said North Carolina GOP spokeswoman Kara Carter.
Administration officials said the ad "ignores facts in order to advance a political agenda," saying that increasing national gas production across the nation had lowered energy prices for consumers.
"The unknown individuals paying for this attack ad are most likely heating their homes and offices and powering their electric cars through natural gas piped in from outside our state. How ironic," said Crystal Feldman, a spokeswoman for the Department of Environmental Quality.