Raleigh, N.C. — A bill to ease regulations on a natural gas drilling process known as "fracking" in North Carolina has won final approval and is headed to the desk of Gov. Pat McCrory.
The final compromise version of Senate Bill 76 is far more modest than the original measure, which would have allowed fracking to move ahead March 1, 2015, without an additional vote by state lawmakers.
That provision is absent from the final measure, which reinstates the original requirement for legislative approval of the rules for fracking before permits can be issued and drilling can begin.
The Senate version also abolished the "landmen registry" for agents handling mineral rights leases for landowners, while the House version put the registry back in. In the final version, the state Mining and Energy Commission is directed to study the concept.
The final version still allows the secretary of the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources to replace the state geologist on the Mining and Energy Commission with another designee of his or her choice. It also removes requirements that commission appointees from the Environmental Resources Commission and Commission for Public Health have respective expertise in water and air resources and waste management.
it also still creates an Energy Policy Council and puts new emphasis on offshore oil and gas exploration.
The compromise, which was closer to the House's version of the bill overall, won approval in the House with little debate Monday by a vote of 70-40.
The Senate followed suit Tuesday, albeit with less enthusiasm.
"We did the best we could," said Sen. Buck Newton, R-Wilson, the bill's original Senate sponsor. "The House didn’t want to go along with some of the improvements we wanted to make.
"It’s a small step forward. It’s not quite as far as we wanted to go, but it’s the best we could do."
No one spoke against the measure in the Senate. The vote was 37-11.