Fracking fast-track bill slows slightly in House

Posted June 5, 2013

In March, state Senate lawmakers approved legislation that would fast-track the start of shale gas mining or "fracking" in North Carolina. 

Their House counterparts, however, don't seem to be in as much of a hurry.

The rewrite of Senate Bill 76 unveiled in House Commerce Wednesday takes a more cautious approach, restoring several consumer protection requirements the Senate sought to repeal.

Most notably, the House version restores the requirement of lawmaker approval before any fracking can begin.

Legislative approval was part of last year's original fracking bill, but Senate leaders removed that requirement, instructing DENR to begin issuing permits for fracking March 1, 2015. 

The House version would allow permits to be issued as of March 1, 2015, but those permits wouldn't take effect until the General Assembly gives the go-ahead.   

The House version also removes language that would allow fracking operators to inject their waste fluid back into the ground in North Carolina.

That change eased the minds of coastal Republicans on the panel. Several said their constituents are afraid the coastal plains will become the site of choice for fracking injection wells.

The bill's supporters said that was a "canard" invented by environmental groups to stir up the public.

"I understand why people would have a concern when the newspapers go out there and print nonsense and get everybody worried," added Sen. Buck Newton, R-Nash, the bill's original sponsor.

Newton said fracking operators wouldn't be likely to go to the expense of trucking water "hundreds of miles" to dispose of it. 

"Right now, the current law of NC is you can’t put the wastewater back in the ground, and this bill in its current form doesn’t change that," Newton said, adding that the issue of disposal "is going to be one of the logistical things to work through."

The House version also restores the requirement for DENR to maintain a "landman registry" for agents seeking to broker mineral rights deals between landowners and mining operators. It, too, was in the 2012 bill, but Senate leaders pushed to abolish it because, they said, it didn't have any regulatory power over the agents.

Rep. Mike Stone, R-Lee, said the House went in the other direction: "We actually put teeth in the landman registry and gave it some strength."  

The latest version also puts the state geologist back on the Mining and Energy Commission and requires more bonding funds to cover potential damages to local governments and landowners. 

DENR Secretary John Skvarla said his agency is "very much in favor" of the House version, calling it "a real step forward."  

Elizabeth Ouzts with Environment North Carolina said her group is still opposed to the general direction of the legislation, but conceded the House rewrite is "much improved over the Senate version." 

The measure passed Commerce easily Wednesday. Its next stop is House Environment. 


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  • ylisabet2 Jun 6, 2013

    ....your children's children will be wondering, 'What were they thinking?????'.....obviously not thinking! How did we ever let it get this far????

  • caryzoo Jun 5, 2013

    I do not want to seem like a negative person. BUT...did it ever dawn on any of us before today that the only committee was the COMMERCE committee? No environmental people involved. I think this pretty much shows how um... less educated they are than the man at the convenience store down 5th street. I think this state is headed on a downhill run to environmental and ideological destruction. It is seems to only placate a few, very few, people's wishes.In fact, if we had an election today. Everyone one of these less than humans would be out of office. Following what the people want? WHAT people? I do not know of anyone, any party who agrees with what they are doing.

  • ILoveDowntownRaleigh Jun 5, 2013

    Anyone who thinks fracking can be done safely, needs to read about the nightmares that other states are encountering with fracking operations.

    And if you think fracking can be accomplished without permanently adding extremely toxic chemicals to your groundwater, PLEASE - do some reading - there is a lot of information available. Just use your favorite search engine and you will find a lifetime's worth of facts and figures about fracking - and it is all very very bad news.

    To allow fracking in our state would be the ultimate reckless and extremist behavior for a legislator. And now you need to ask: who in your state government supports this idea?

  • jgilchr Jun 5, 2013

    Hopefully it stalls and dies.

  • sisu Jun 5, 2013

    Good to see the House thinking more about about the value of NC's future than just making a quick buck. We have the most beautiful state in the union.

  • whatelseisnew Jun 5, 2013

    ""Fast-track" and "Fracking" shouldn't go together. This needs to be done slowly and carefully, if at all."

    I agree. Although fracking is being done elsewhere, I have no idea of anyone has yet figured out if harm is being done or not. It would be much less concerning if they could avoid using anything EXCEPT water in this process.

  • lovelarvae Jun 5, 2013

    "Fast-track" and "Fracking" shouldn't go together. This needs to be done slowly and carefully, if at all.