Raleigh, N.C. — The state House has approved a bill that would both direct the governor to pursue an offshore drilling compact with other states and make changes to the state's gas drilling laws.
Senators are scheduled to give final legislative approval to the bill Tuesday.
Environmental watchdogs say the measure steps back from provisions that would have hastened on-shore natural gas drilling. However, coastal lawmakers worry that provisions that promote offshore drilling risk billions of tourism dollars for uncertain returns on oil and gas production.
"I hardly see how that revenue sharing can really offset that type of risk to our economy," Rep. Paul Tine, D-Dare, said.
Tine pointed out that current federal law provides no way for North Carolina to share in the revenue from drilling.
"It will literally take an act of Congress," he said.
But backers of the bill say the coast can be protected
As for revenue sharing, Rep. Mike Hager, R-Rutherford, "That's down the road. We have to take these steps to get down the road."
The measure, which was a conference report that bridged differences between the House and Senate, passed 70-40. The bill must also pass the Senate before moving on to Gov. Pat McCrory for his signature or veto.
Also Monday, the House rejected changes to a separate "regulatory reform" bill that deals with dozens of different provisions. One of those provisions covers what drilling companies will have to tell the state about chemicals they use in the process of hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking." The drilling method calls for forcing a mix of chemicals, water and sand into wells to crack apart shale rock and release trapped natural gas.
"We're still working on that," Rep. Tim Moffitt, R-Buncombe, said of the fracking provision. There are also differences between the House and Senate as to other provisions the two chambers want to include in the bill, he said.