Lawmakers content to settle for existing air quality rules for drilling

Posted March 12, 2015

— North Carolina is scheduled to begin next Tuesday the process of issuing the first permits for natural gas drilling in the state.

Lawmakers promised three years ago when they voted to legalize drilling that the state would have the country's best regulations on the books before permits were granted, but that hasn't happened so far with regard to air pollution generated by drilling sites.

The state Environmental Management Commission was supposed to establish air quality rules related to sites where hydraulic fracturing, a drilling process often referred to as "fracking," was being done. Lawmakers quickly introduced legislation last week to drop that mandate, allowing the commission to rely on existing state and federal regulations on emissions from drilling operations if those regulations are found to be "adequate."

The bill passed the House on Wednesday and received tentative approval in the Senate on Thursday.

Supporters say the change is needed so North Carolina can meet the March 17 deadline, but environmental advocates say the state needs to slow down instead of rolling back an effort to produce stricter regulations.

"The disappointing thing is that we were promised we'd have the best rules on the books before any permits were issued, and seemingly that's not the case," said Dustin Chicurel-Bayard, a spokesman for the North Carolina chapter of the Sierra Club.

Federal environmental rules are meant to be a bare minimum for states, not a maximum, Chicurel-Bayard said. Allowing fracking to start without regulations for surface-level ozone, benzene, formaldehyde and other pollutants could put nearby neighborhoods at risk, he said.

"It only makes sense that we figure out what safeguards and protections we need for North Carolina communities before we even start taking about fracking," he said. "We’ve never had to develop rules. I think the legislature got it right years ago when it said the EMC needs to find rules or promulgate rules just for air toxic emissions related to fracking. That made sense then. It makes sense now. It's something that our communities deserve."

Sen. Andrew Brock, R-Davie, said existing regulations are enough to handle air pollution created by gas drilling.

"Currently, there are 443 air toxic rules that are on the books. That's federal and state," Brock said. "So, that should take care of that issue."

The legislation also would close a loophole that could stall the permitting process if challenged in the courts, he said, adding that the state Mining and Energy Commission is reviewing other rules related to fracking.


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  • Sammy Macloud Mar 16, 2015
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    of COURSE they are content, they don't have to work.......

    and OF COURSE they lied to us.....it's the way of the day.

  • Jeff DeWitt Mar 13, 2015
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    No one knows how much gas there is here, that's part of the point, and it's not OUR money that will be spent finding out, it's the energy companies.

    Nothing "filthy" about fracking, we've been doing it for the best part of a century, and in recent years the technology has improved dramatically.

    It's been practiced very successfully and safely in many other places, and it's why our economy isn't in far worse shape than it is.

  • Anne Mathis Mar 13, 2015
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    Only people of *NO CONSCIENCE* would do this to North Carolina!!!!!! There is not enough natural gas product here to make it worth the effort!!! What a waste of $$$$$$$!!!!!!!!!!

  • Roy Hinkley Mar 13, 2015
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    View quoted thread

    The problem is, we don't know how many of those regulations are even applicable to fracking activities. That was the whole point in having the EMC look into it. Who knows, they could have decided that there were already plenty of regulations, or they could have decided a couple of key things were missing. This bill just hopes that they apply and puts our collective heads in the sand.

  • Teresa Engel Mar 13, 2015
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    View quoted thread

    443 regulations are already on the books, none of which pertain to the filthy practice of fracking. So, yes, there should be a few more. You obviously don't live where fracking will take place, or you would gladly welcome more regulations. I do. And before you start spouting off at me to move if I don't like it, then you should be first in line to put in an offer on my house.

  • Jeff DeWitt Mar 13, 2015
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    443 regulations isn't nearly enough, we need to follow the 0bama model and add at least a few thousand more.

  • Jack Jones Mar 12, 2015
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    Well, Republicans fooled the public yet again and our children will inherit a toxic landscape that billionaires would have long deserted.

  • Teresa Engel Mar 12, 2015
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    "If you like your clean environment, you can keep your clean environment." NOT! All politicians are nothing but l i a r s!