Fracking

Lawmakers will have the final say on whether "fracking," the common name for a group of practices that involves using horizontal drilling and explosives to drill for natural gas, becomes legal in North Carolina. STATUS: Negotiators for the state House and Senate have reached an agreement on a bill, SB 76, that tweaks the state's mining and energy law. The final bill does not "fast track" the fracking process as earlier bills did, but allow the Mining and Energy Commission to develop fracking rules before permits are issued. However, another bill, HB 74, would restrict public notice of the chemicals used in fracking procedures.

 

For now, much of the action around hydraulic fracturing and drilling for natural gas in North Carolina is in the hands of the appointed Mining and Energy Commission, which will set rules to safeguard the environment, such as how chemicals used in the process will be disclosed. 

However, hydraulic fracturing cannot move forward without legislative approval. Specifically, lawmakers must lift a moratorium on the practice of horizontal drilling. Given the current timeline, it's unlikely the Mining and Energy Commission will finish its work in time for lawmakers to make that decision in 2013. However, the issue has been a high profile one and therefore bears watching. 

Bills and status:

Senate Bill 76 was filed on Feb. 11. The measure would allow the North Carolina Mining and Energy Commission to start issuing permits for fracking on March 1, 2015. This lifts the current moratorium on fracking that is now in law. The bill also encourages offshore drilling. The bill cleared the Senate Finance Committee on Feb. 13. The Senate Commerce Commerce Committee approved the measure on Feb. 21. It is scheduled for a floor vote in the Senate on Tuesday, Feb. 26.

(Update 2/27/13): The bill has received tentative approval from the Senate. A second vote is expected 2/27, which will send the measure to the House.

(Update 3/4/13): The bill has been passed by the Senate and is pending in the House Committee on Commerce. 

(Update 6/23/13): Both the House and Senate have passed versions of the bill, although the House restores many of the safeguards stripped out by the Senate bill. The two chambers are negotiating a compromise measure. 

(Update 7/2/13): The Senate has tentatively approved HB 94, which would  override the ability of the Mining and Energy Commission to write rules for fracking chemicals. In particular, it would prohibit the commission from writing rules that require full disclosure of those chemicals. That bill must still be heard by the state House. 

(Update 7/19/13): Negotiators for the state House and Senate have reached an agreement on a bill, SB 76, that tweaks the state's mining and energy law. The final bill does not "fast track" the fracking process as earlier bills did, but allow the Mining and Energy Commission to develop fracking rules before permits are issued. However, another bill, HB 74, would restrict public notice of the chemicals used in fracking procedures. 

Related stories: