Fracking split in the legislature

While one House Republican pushes a go slow approach other GOP voices are ready to let drilling go forward.

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Mark Binker

Rep. Mitch Gillespie is due to hold a news conference at 3 p.m. where he is, I'm told, going to outline his plans for natural gas drilling (see: fracking) in North Carolina. I'm further told this will be a "go slow" bill that will call for more study before allowing the state to move forward. 

Gillespie doesn't exactly see eye-to-eye with the environmental community but among the Republicans who control the House and Senate, he's the closest thing the greens have to a champion.

On the other end of the gas-drilling spectrum are Sen. Bob Rucho and Rep. Mike Hager, both proponents of moving forward with drilling off-shore and hydraulic fracturing on-shore.

In advance of Gillespie's presser, the pair send out a news release saying they'll be pushing legislation to open up the state to drilling during the May short session. From the release:

 Sen. Bob Rucho (R-Mecklenburg) and Rep. Mike Hager (R-Rutherford), chairmen of the Senate and House energy committees, on Wednesday committed to work on legislation during the upcoming short session to develop North Carolina shale gas in an environmentally responsible manner.

“With our country in the midst of a historic energy crisis and our unemployment rates at record highs, we can’t afford to delay energy development any longer with more studies and panel discussions,” said Rucho. “We have solutions for job creation, lower fuel prices and energy security right under our feet and the legislature has the responsibility to move forward with its development.”

Rucho and Hager said their committees understand a strong regulatory framework must be in place before exploration can begin, and that will be the focus of their legislation.

Last Friday, Gov. Beverly Perdue met with Rucho and Hager and pledged to support current legislative efforts to develop North Carolina shale gas in an environmentally friendly manner.

“From day one, this General Assembly has been committed to developing energy and making good use of our shale resources. We’re pleased the governor is now working with us to bring thousands of new jobs and clean energy to our state,” said Hager.

Given what I know about Gillespie's plans and the language in this news release, it looks like there's a bit of a rift developing among Republicans on this issue. The release also feels like it was timed to preempt Gillespie's presser. 

Final note: The mention of Perdue in intriguing. She has recently said that she thinks hydraulic fracturing might be a viable option, but she wants to proceed with caution. It's unclear whether she supports the full-court press that Rucho is proposing here. 


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