Lawmakers have been contemplating ways to open the state for energy exploration. In order to drill efficiently for gas in the state's shale rock, companies would need to use horizontal drilling and explosives, processes collectively known as hydraulic fracturing or "fracking." The method is controversial because of its links to environmental problems in other states.
Perdue's executive order calls for a "working group" to figure out the best ways to regulate the process.
Currently, the horizontal drilling is illegal in North Carolina. Whether to make it legal is a decision for lawmakers.
Still, Perdue's action drew praise from environmental groups.
“Fracking poses inherent threats to our water and our air,” said Environment North Carolina Elizabeth Ouzts. “Further study of these dangers is the only sensible step forward when it comes to this risky form of drilling.”
Jayne Preyer, state director for the Environmental Defense Fund, said that Perdue's approach would avoid "a rush" that could lead to problems.
“Gov. Perdue sends a clear signal that she will work actively with legislators who support a responsible approach to natural gas development, provided that the state has safeguards in place that protect the health of citizens and communities. Safety should be the priority for North Carolina’s landowners, communities and environment," Preyer said.
Sen. Bob Rucho, a Mecklenburg Republican who is fracking biggest supporter in the state legislature, said he was also pleased with Perdue's order.
“We are pleased Gov. Perdue shares our goal of creating a vibrant energy jobs sector in North Carolina and agree there needs to be a strong regulatory framework. We look forward to passing The Clean Energy and Economic Security Act and having Gov. Perdue sign it into law," Rucho said.