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Lawmakers OK fast-track 'fracking' bill

Posted May 29, 2014

— House and Senate lawmakers gave final approval Thursday to a proposal that would speed up the start of natural gas drilling in the state.

The House vote was 64-50, and the Senate voted 33-10 without any debate to concur with the House version of the bill.

Senate Bill 786 now goes to the desk of Gov. Pat McCrory, who has already said he supports it.

"We have sat on the sidelines as a state for far too long on gas exploration," McCrory said early Thursday, adding that the industry would "create jobs and also help with our country’s energy independence."

Rep. Mike Stone, R-Lee, agreed.

"It's been a long, long road," he said. "We need to move forward to say North Carolina is in the energy business." 

House Democrats tried to amend the legislation 10 times Thursday, but none succeeded.

Republican leaders used a parliamentary maneuver to derail four proposals. Those amendments would have banned the disposal of toxic wastewater from drilling in open pits, required landowner permission to disturb surface land, allowed cities more power in setting rules for drilling and reinstated a 2012 requirement for lawmakers to vote to approve state regulations before any drilling could begin. 

The parliamentary maneuver, known as tabling, allows amendments to be killed without a recorded vote on the topic of the amendment. 

Rep. Becky Carney, D-Mecklenburg, was angry that her amendment to reinstate the final vote on regulations was not debated. She said legislators of both parties made that commitment when they lifted the ban on drilling in 2012. 

"We broke a promise, and you get to go home and say that," Carney said.

North Carolina Legislature Building (4x3) How NC House voted on drilling bill

Ed Harris, whose Lee County land sits atop a shale deposit that could be drilled, said he is upset with lawmakers for their headlong rush to open the state to gas exploration.

"They don't even have the rules in place they're going to use, but they're going ahead and passing (the bill)," said Harris, 66, whose family has lived in Lee County since the 1880s.

Stone said the rules that are eventually established aren't written in stone and will evolve over the coming years.

"There will be a lot of change that we'll look at," he said.

"My land belongs to me," Harris said. "It does not belong to Mike Stone, it does not belong to (the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources), it does not belong to the Mining and Energy Commission and it doesn't belong to the North Carolina legislature."

A amendment proposed by Rep. Grier Martin, D-Wake, would have banned compulsory, or forced, pooling by removing the state's 1940s forced pooling law from the books. 

Martin said forced pooling isn't required for the drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," noting that Pennsylvania and West Virginia don't allow it.

"This amendment here is not whether you support or oppose fracking. This is about whether you think the government should be able to come in and tell you you have to engage in it,” he said. 

Other Democrats compared forced pooling to the abuse of eminent domain and said it would be impossible for oil and gas companies or landowners to value leases if the rules for pooling aren't clear. 

"We are transferring and changing the property rights of the citizens of this state," warned Rep. Rick Glazier, D-Cumberland. 

Harris agreed, saying, "I should, as an American citizen, have the option of saying no.

"The idea someone can take this from me then turn around and pay me a fair market value for some lumber, how do you put a price on something like this?" he asked.

Republicans argued that forced pooling actually helps landowners who don't sign leases by making sure they share in the profits from natural gas that might be drawn out from under their property and said it's often the poor and uneducated who are left out of profits.

"Forced pooling is to protect the person who has a lot of drilling taking place around them from them not getting anything," said Rep. Chuck McGrady, R-Henderson. 

Martin's amendment failed, as did another by Rep. Joe Sam Queen, D-Swain, that attempted to make the chemical recipes of fracking fluid public record. 

"The public's right to know should take precedence over corporate secrecy," Queen argued. 

Stone called the amendment a "deal-killer," arguing that the industry wouldn't come to the state to drill if its trade secrets weren't protected. He said the proposal was just another attempt by fracking opponents "to find a way to shut it down. "

Martin agreed that trade secrets should be protected, but added, "When your trade secret enters my daughter's drinking water, it becomes my right to know."

Rep. Bill Brawley, R-Mecklenburg, said opponents of the bill were relying on rhetoric and emotion at the expense of the actual contents of the bill. 

"We're going to hear a lot of fear about situations that don't exist," Brawley said. "I read the bill. It ain't great, but it is what it is. I'm supporting it."

Glazier argued the benefits of fracking with current technology don't outweigh the risk. "It scares the absolute heck out of me," he said.

Rep. Pricey Harrison, D-Guilford, said she doesn't understand why Republican leaders rushed the measure through the House so quickly.

"Three hundred eighty-seven jobs and 12 days of gas does not seem like it's worth the risk to our natural resources and our public health," Harrison said. "We have plenty of time to get it right. Nothing about this process makes any sense to me."



41 Comments

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  • dwntwnboy2 May 31, 2014

    The water coolers at the GA should be filled from wells nextvto fracking sites. They think its safe- DRINK UP!!

  • crazy23456 May 30, 2014

    http://www.change.org/petitions/patrick-mccrory-and-marilyn-avila-and-james-langdon-ban-fracking-in-nc

    Anyone want to sign this petition to stop fracking in NC?

  • Super Hans May 30, 2014

    View quoted thread


    Same thing in PA. It's an environmental disaster.

  • Carrboro May 30, 2014

    If you heat your house or use power in your house it probably come from a gas powered Duke Power generating station. I would suggest the folks against this to get out their wallet since without additional supply prices will go up. The other alternative is to get a wood stove and a box of candles. But what about the poor trees. At least they help to produce oxygen.
    Natural gas meets 28 percent of U.S. energy demand (as of 2012).
    Natural gas now heats 51 percent of U.S. households. It also cools many homes and provides fuel for cooking.
    Because natural gas burns cleaner than gasoline or diesel, many companies and municipalities are deploying fleets of natural gas-powered cars, trucks and buses to reduce emissions. There are approximately 142,000 natural gas vehicles operating on American roads.

  • Atheistinafoxhole May 30, 2014

    View quoted thread


    Ok, would you support a law that only allows fracking in YOUR back yard and the "back yards" of those like you who support it? As long as it doesn't contaminate MY drinking water, frack as much as you like on YOUR property.

  • Kenny Dunn May 30, 2014
    user avatar

    Anyone in the are subject to fracking and have a well need to get it tested immediately. Then petition the government to disclose the chemicals be pumped into the ground so you have some chance of knowing your water is being contaminated by fracking. Then have your well water tested regularly.

  • Carrboro May 30, 2014

    Liberals talk about wind energy but don't want a wind mill in their back yard. They also don't understand about load demand and what it takes to keep their light on, Ac running and all the other conveniences that come from power. First it was coal now it's Natural gas. I didn't hear much protesting around here in the past as fracking has been going on for years. It's another example of not in my back yard.

  • kohammer May 30, 2014

    I'm neither Republican or Democrat, but always try to vote for those who will best serve and protect N.C. and her people. What this particular group of Republicans do not seem to get is that no matter how much money people have in their pockets, or how much gas is forced out of the ground, it won't do us much good if we have no clean water to drink, or air to breathe. I really don't get these people. If they care nothing about the rest of us, one would think that they would at least care about their own families and future generations. This is most assuredly one of the saddest days in the history of our state.

  • Kenny Dunn May 30, 2014
    user avatar

    View quoted thread


    Please start one and invite us all to join.

  • Charles Harris May 30, 2014
    user avatar

    Where are the petitions for citizens to force this to ballot? Why is there no action? Just because the GA can be bought does not mean that we have to take it.

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