House approves fast-track 'fracking' bill

Posted May 28, 2014

— The state House gave tentative approval Wednesday to a proposal that would allow natural gas drilling to start in the state as soon as rules for the industry are finalized. Senate Bill 786 passed its first of two votes, 63-52.

The legislation was first unveiled in the House less than 24 hours before the vote, moving through two committees with almost no public notice. It was moved onto the House floor Wednesday through a parliamentary maneuver.

Rep. Mike Hager, R-Rutherford, said the measure "gets us a step closer" to the start of drilling, including the process of hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking."

The bill repeals a 2012 requirement that lawmakers vote to approve rules for fracking before the state's moratorium on it could be lifted. Instead, the state is directed to begin issuing permits for drilling 60 days after the state Mining and Energy Commission finalizes the rules.

The measure also makes it a misdemeanor for anyone to reveal a driller's formula for fracking fluid, though supporters stressed that material safety sheets on site will ensure that, in an emergency, first responders can find out what chemicals they're dealing with.

The bill also prohibits local governments from passing ordinances that could ban or limit fracking, lowers permit costs for wells and requires state regulators to look into whether applicants for permits have had a history of violations in other states.  

Rep. Mike Stone, R-Lee, said the bill will bring the state jobs. "North Carolina needs energy independence," he said.

Current estimates of the state's shale reserves project they contain enough gas to supply the state's natural gas needs for less than six years. The Commerce Department estimated the industry would create 387 jobs. 

"That's a lot of risk for not a lot of reward," said Rep. Pricey Harrison, D-Guilford. 

"As a father, the main reason I was put on this earth is to protect my daughter," said Rep. Grier Martin, D-Wake. "You want me to vote for a bill that’s going to pump unnamed chemicals into her drinking water? And the only recourse you give me is that, after she gets sick, you’ll disclose them to her doctor? Never."

Other opponents questioned why House leaders were rushing the bill through, given that the rules are months from completion. 

"It is inappropriate and indefensible for us as a body to move forward on a bill so quickly when the public has had absolutely no opportunity to know the bill would be on the calendar," said Rep. Paul Luebke, D-Durham. 

Democrats tried but failed to delay the vote by a day to give the public time to weigh in. 

"Why not give the public some confidence that what we did today, whether they agree with it or not, was done appropriately and transparently?" asked House Minority Leader Larry Hall.

"This [debate on fracking] has been ongoing for four years," Hager replied.

After the session, House Speaker Thom Tillis defended the speed with which the bill was handled.

Tillis, who does not usually cast a vote, voted yes on the measure.

"I think it's important to North Carolina – it's important on several different levels – and I wanted to show the support for the bill," Tillis said following the vote.

Asked about criticism the measure was moving too quickly, Tillis called that "disingenuous," saying the House moved slowly on the fracking bill last year despite pressure from the Senate to speed up.

But why move so quickly Wednesday?

"I think it's just a matter of why not get it done?" Tillis said, noting that the legislature has been working on the issue since 2011. "It's been several years; it's just time to move forward." 

The bill must pass one final House floor vote, expected Thursday. After that, it returns to the Senate for approval of the House's changes to the original proposal. If the Senate agrees, it could be on the governor's desk by the end of the week.


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  • Danny Cole May 30, 2014
    user avatar

    The sky is falling, The sky is falling, Oh my, the GA is bringing in jobs, Lot's of jobs, You'll have to go to work, Actually earn a living. You complainers are total hypocrites, why? You say we need jobs, but when they come, you hollar, NOT IN MY BACKYARD. Hope they are hear for centuries.

  • JimW May 30, 2014

    View quoted thread

    Hope they give you good medical benefits to cover the sicknesses your family may end up with. Oh, and since your land will likely become worthless, I hope they give you enough money to buy a new home too. Enjoy that "great" job.

    The only people who are getting rich off of this are gas company execs and politicians taking contributions from lobbyists.

  • JimW May 30, 2014

    View quoted thread

    Do you plan to bathe in bottled water? Do you expect that every restaurant in Wake County will cook with bottled water?

    Falls Lake is surrounded by shale deposits. There will be fracking wells drilled all around that place in no time. Any environmental issues regarding drilling around our primary water source will just be bypassed without any debate as fast as possible by the NC GOP.

  • JimW May 30, 2014

    Love the braindead people on here pointing to the "evidence" that fracking is safe.

    This "evidence" is being put out by the industry....studies that have been done independently have proven hundreds of times it is NOT safe. Why don't YOU people do some research instead of believing all of the BS trotted out for you on the surface.

    And the EPA has been found to be bought off by lobbyists many, many times. Pharma industry, gas industry, etc. In Pennsylvania the EPA initially found highly toxic levels of fracking chemicals in groundwater...a month later they revised their report and said it was all safe. Within days the head of the entire department resigned in disgust.

    So yeah, go trust the "evidence" that fracking is safe. Don't mind the fact that even the MAYOR of Dish, Texas moved out of his own town due to fracking problems. The MAYOR.

    I don't know why I even bother. You folks probably also believe BP when they say the Gulf of Mexico is fine now.

  • JimW May 30, 2014

    Those of you politicizing this are absolutely brainless.

    You do realize that shale deposits are all through Wake and Durham Counties and all around Falls Lake, our primary water source?!!!! I don't give a hoot about conservative or liberal bickering, I care about my wife and my children.

    Do you trust our government or an oil/gas company to let us know when cancer water is coming through our taps that we drink out of or bathe in? They won't, because it would be their faults if it happens.

    So sick of people sticking to their political side of the fences and not using their brains to actually think independently. This country is being run by corrupt officials influenced only my money, officials who are followed by masses of robotic people that don't have the intelligence to think for themselves and believe everything these politicians tell them.

    And they have made it illegal to even tell us what poison they are going to use. How is that NOT a red flag??!!! WAKE UP PEOPLE

  • IBnormal May 30, 2014

    If they give me one of the 387 jobs, they can drill in my back yard! Which would, also, reduce my commute time and mileage expense!

  • Danny Cole May 30, 2014
    user avatar

    Democrats are don't want this because it will create jobs and lessen those who will have to depend on the Government to live.

  • Mary Jo Holmes May 30, 2014
    user avatar

    If you live in Pennsylvania and would like to be informed of when and where fracking leaks are contaminating the groundwater, well, good luck. The Department of Environmental Protection doesn’t bother to inform the public, or make any record at all, when those violations affect private water wells.
    The DEP reports that 98 private water supplies in the state have been contaminated by shale gas drilling between 2008 and 2013.

  • dws May 29, 2014

    "Current estimates of the state's shale reserves project they contain enough gas to supply the state's natural gas needs for less than six years. The Commerce Department estimated the industry would create 387 jobs. "

    Those who voted Yes on this legislation for a projection of 387 jobs and less than 6 years of natural gas supply for the state have failed the citizens of NC. Their irresponsibility is appalling.

  • Jeff Johnson May 29, 2014
    user avatar

    I'm registered unaffiliated, usually vote Republican but this issue, will have me looking more closely at Democratic candidates and begin voting for them. Fast track alternative energies, not energies that primarily benefit Big Business.
    And the GOP continues to distance itself from US Citizens.