NC legislative panel puts 'fracking' on fast track

Posted April 18, 2012

— Energy companies could begin applying in July 2014 for permits to use a controversial method of natural gas drilling under a bill approved by a Senate study panel Wednesday.

Gas drilling in the state has become increasingly contentious in recent months, pitting environmentalists against business groups over hydraulic fracturing. The process, also known as "fracking," involves drilling horizontally into underground deposits of shale and then pumping a high-pressure mix of water and chemicals into a well to break apart the rock and release natural gas.

The proposal is at odds with a "go-slow" approach put forward by a House lawmakers last month.

"I think the ultimate goal is the same," said Sen. Bob Rucho, R-Mecklenburg, who played down the differences.

The bill the Senate Energy Policy Issues Committee has recommended to the General Assembly would eliminate the state's current prohibitions on horizontal drilling. Rucho emphasized that the General Assembly would have the ability to stop any drilling if lawmakers were unhappy with the rules developed to govern the industry.

But environmental advocates say the bill clears the way for drilling without knowing all the possible environmental side effects or whether there's enough gas in the ground to make drilling worthwhile.

"It sets a fuse," said Molly Diggins, state director for the Sierra Club.

Opponents worry that fracking will contaminate groundwater supplies and aggravate water shortages during drought conditions. Supporters say those fears are overblown and argue that North Carolina needs the jobs and the economic boost that energy exploration would provide.

Rucho called the proposed legislation a comprehensive plan to increase domestic energy production, ensure energy reliability and affordability and promote job growth.

“North Carolina has a great opportunity to develop a vibrant energy sector capable of creating thousands of new jobs and generating billions of dollars for the state economy,” he said in a statement. “We will work to ensure our energy needs are met safely and responsibly, but we will not stand by idly when we have a chance to deal with two of North Carolina’s biggest crises – high unemployment and soaring energy prices.”

The draft bill would create an Oil and Gas Board to put in place any necessary regulations, and it limits the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources oversight of drilling operations. It also would require all new school buses and state Department of Transportation pickups to run on natural gas.

A House bill put forward by Rep. Mitch Gillespie, R-McDowell, called for further studies of gas drilling and the development of regulations, but it wouldn't have lifted the state's moratorium.

Gillespie said Wednesday that he looks forward to working with Rucho “and all of the stakeholders on legislation that will create jobs and help make North Carolina energy independent and protect our water and air.”

Acknowledging that the bill put forward but Rucho’s committee was at odds with his on the timing surrounding when fracking would be allowed, he said, “That’s one of the two points we still disagree on."


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  • leftblank Apr 20, 2012

    "...clears the way for drilling without knowing all the possible environmental side effects..."

    What a joke. It's like horizontal drilling and fracking have been going on a few hundred miles from here for 70 years a believe me WE KNOW ALL of the side effects - jobs and lower gasoline prices.

    What planet do these people live on. It's as though the rest of the modern world doesn't exist to these Luddites.

    "...or whether there's enough gas in the ground to make drilling worthwhile."

    NO rational business person would set foot in this state to drill ANY gas wells without first having a governmental regulatory framework to protect them from the Sierra Club's trial lawyers.

  • Ex-Republican Apr 19, 2012

    "I simply am saying that people are going off the deep end without looking at everything in depth. Thousands upon thousands of wells have been done already without incident so why all the fuss now?"

    Because wacko lib environmentalists prefer fear mongering over reasoned, educated, intelligent discussion.

  • burnstock99 Apr 19, 2012

    For those of you for fracking in our state I say you offer up your property as a test run.

  • burnstock99 Apr 19, 2012

    I wish we could keep doing the same things we've been doing forever because they have always worked just fine and there are no consequences. Besides, there's nothing better in the long term anyway. I wish there was a sarcastic font.

  • whatelseisnew Apr 19, 2012

    Only with government involved would a date of 2014 be called FAST-Track. Fast track to me would be approve it and take permits starting tomorrow. I see by some rants on here some blame the Republicans and conveniently ignore that fact that their DEM Governor is right on board with this. Myopia at its finest. Those of you that do not want the energy resources can always relocate to a country that uses wood and animal dung for its energy resources. Many of you would scream bloody murder if the price of natural gas was raised, using the typical those greedy folks just are grabbing money. I wish we would get off the dime and start looking for oil off the coast and start building refineries to help bring down the cost of fuel.

  • peterpepper Apr 19, 2012

    I'm not good at this sort of thing but maybe someone out there is and can get this ball rolling... what about getting a petition started then sent asap to our greedy legislators ?
    http://www.ipetitions.com/categories/environment-wildlifeI've signed some before thats worked so know they can be effective !

  • pmck Apr 19, 2012

    People are concerned because the financial interests of the corporations always takes priority over environmental protection. Those two take priority over the risk of long term damage to people.

  • ssvoiceofsanity Apr 19, 2012

    For all of the nc natives that have not sold your family farms to developers, don't be surprised if you lose that land or at least the use of it, for the public good.

  • geosol Apr 19, 2012

    "The draft bill would create an Oil and Gas Board to put in place any necessary regulations, and it limits the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources oversight of drilling operations."
    WOW!!! That pretty much says it all. "Let the industry do whatever it wants and don't make them subject to current environmental protection rules.". This is EXACTLY what the environmental activists have been warning us about. REMEMBER IN NOVEMBER AND VOTE AGAINST ALL REPUBLICANS IN EVERY RACE!!!! Send the carpet bagger REPUBLICANS like Rucho back to New Jersey and leave the great state of North Carolina alone!!!! If they want to make NC look like New Jersey, why don't they just go back home and leave us alone?

  • GravyPig Apr 19, 2012

    "To all the good people who have expressed an opinion here: WRITE TO YOUR CONGRESSIONAL REPRESENTATIVES." - goferi

    Write to them and let your voice be heard.