Raleigh, N.C. — Gov. Bev Perdue vetoed Senate Bill 820, which would open the state up to shale gas exploration. Better known as the "fracking" bill, it would begin clearing the way for a natural gas drilling process that involves horizontal drilling and explosives to fracture rock layers that contains natural gas.
“I support energy policies that create jobs and lower costs for businesses and families,” Perdue said. “Our drinking water and the health and safety of North Carolina’s families are too important; we can’t put them in jeopardy by rushing to allow fracking without proper safeguards.”
It's not clear whether Republican leaders have the votes to override Perdue's veto, particularly in the House.
In the final vote on the bill, 66 House members voted aye. That's 6 votes short of the 72 votes needed for an override when all 120 members are present. All but 2 Dems voted against the bill, and all but 2 Republicans voted for it.
Five representatives had excused absences for that final vote, 4 of them Democrats.
Six other members were listed as not voting, including Speaker Thom Tillis and 2 Democrats -- Bladen Rep. Bill Brisson and Columbus Rep. Dewey Hill - both of who have voted with Republicans to override other vetoes.
Assuming all those who voted for the bill vote to override and they are jointed by Tillis, Brisson, Hill, and Republican Rep. Pat McElraft of Carteret County, that would still only be 70 votes to override. That would only be enough for an override if several members are absent or can be persuaded to "take a walk" when the vote comes up.
The most likely "walkers" could include the two Republicans who voted against the measure, Rep. Chuck McGrady, R-Henderson, and Rep. Bryan Holloway, R-Stokes, whose district includes a small pocket of potential shale gas production.
Almost immediately after Perdue's veto, outside groups began putting pressure on lawmakers.
“We’re urging representatives to stand up for the state’s waters and sustain the Governor’s veto,” said Elizabeth Ouzts, Environment North Carolina State Director. "Rushing into this practice and asking questions about water and air pollution later is the wrong way to go."
Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group that has backed most of the policies put forward by the Republican-lead General Assembly, urged lawmakers to go the other way.
"North Carolina citizens deserve better. We encourage the General Assembly to override the Governors highly political job killing veto," said Dallas Woodhouse, state director for AFP.
Americans for Prosperity put a robocall in the field, encouraging those that receive it to call their lawmakers and ask them to override the veto.
Woodhouse said it went into the districts of 20 House lawmakers. He would not specify the members beyond saying that they were mostly Democrats. The sample call he provided targeted members in Brisson's district.
"We normally avoid doing these things on Sunday, but time, of course, is an essence here," Woodhouse said in an e-mail.
Republican lawmakers expect to end their session for the year on Monday or Tuesday.