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Fracking bill heads to Gov. Pat McCrory

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Legislation that would allow permits to be issued for fracking operations as early as May 2015 cleared the Republican-controlled House on Thursday amid resistance from environmental groups, most Democrats – and some Republicans.

The Winston-Salem Journal reported that the House approved the Energy Modernization Act in a vote of 64-50, with support coming from 61 Republicans and three Democrats.

The vote represents the final major legislative hurdle for the bill as Sen. Bob Rucho, R-Mecklenburg, has expressed support for the tweaks made by House members to the Senate bill. After a Senate review of the changes, the bill would head to Gov. Pat McCrory for his approval.

Eleven GOP members voted against the bill, including Rep. Bryan Holloway of Stokes County, where fracking may occur. Another Republican, Rep. John Blust of Guilford County, said in a brief interview that although he supports fracking, a common drilling method used to extract natural gas, the legislative process does not live up to the promise that lawmakers made two years ago.

“I felt I made a commitment that we would vote on the rules after they were done and that we would not have fracking until their elected representative signed off on them, and this bill kind of changes that. I’m just trying to keep my word,” Blust said.

In 2012, lawmakers set a moratorium on fracking and said they would lift it with an affirmative vote of the legislature to allow fracking permits to be issued. Under the Energy Modernization Act, that affirmative vote would no longer be requires.

Rather, the bill would allow fracking permits to be issued 60 days after the legislature approves rules being drafted now by the state Mining and Energy Committee. Those rules are due Jan. 1, about the time the next session of the General Assembly will begin. If the rules are approved by March, for example, permits could be issued 60 days later – in May – without an affirmative vote to allow fracking.

The bill passed by the House gives lawmakers less time to object to those rules and changes how permits would be issued.

Among other key provisions, the bill would require energy companies to submit a list of the chemicals in use to the state geologist, who would keep it locked away in case of emergency. The legislation exempts those lists from disclosure as public records.

The bill would also pre-empt city and county governments from enacting local regulations that would prohibit fracking operations.

On the House floor, Rep. Becky Carney, D-Mecklenburg, tried to restore the moratorium and require an affirmative vote to lift it before fracking permits could be issued. The GOP majority easily quashed the amendment in a procedural vote that eliminated debate. Several other Democratic amendments that, in their view, would further protect the environment were also quashed.

Current estimates suggest that in the Deep River Basin, an area that runs about 150 miles from Granville County southwestward to South Carolina, there are an estimated 1.66 trillion cubic feet of gas and 83 million barrels of natural gas liquids – enough to feed North Carolina’s consumption of natural gas for more than five years, based on 2010 data, according to state environmental officials.

Chatham, Lee and Moore counties likely have the largest reserves of shale gas, according to state and federal geologists, but some reserves may also exist in Stokes County and Rockingham County. Current estimates suggest that for the Dan River-Danville Basin, which includes Stokes, there are 49 billion cubic feet of gas but no natural gas liquids.

Outside the legislative building, several environmental groups tried to make a stand against fracking.

“For the little we’re going to get out of it, it’s not worth the risk,” said Janet Sowers, 57, of Person County.


  • Chucky

    Everyone talks about what this will do to drinking water. I have not heard anyone ask or answer questions about its potential to affect seismic activity. When you fracture rock that is below the Earth’s surface and remove gas that helps to maintain stability, you’re eventually going to have problems. I’m guessing that there might be seismic activity and / or sink holes as a result. We should be looking to areas that have been doing this for a while to see what benefits or problems they are having instead of rushing it through so rich folks can get richer and politicians’ hands can be greased (which I feel certain is how this passed so fast).

  • John Smith

    What this will do is transfer wealth to the gov and his buddies. Case clear……and closed.

    • alex

      It may give the government more money, but Im not apart of the government and I have been in the oilfields for years and sure has made me wealthy. It gives the ability for all the lazy people just collecting unemployment and living off my 100,000 a year I pay in taxes the ability to do most of the easy jobs in this industry and make 60,000 a year doing the same thing they are doing, sitting on their butts doing nothing. Id rather my taxes go to the old and handicapped, then maybe my aunt who has been handicapped all her life to get the care she needs.

    • alex

      This video has so many problems with it, if this is what everyone is watching and thinking they are now knowledgeable about fracking then you have no idea.

  • InventorNC

    “Everyone” knows what fracking will do to drinking water? Golee, everyone? LOL

    Fracking happens thousands of feet below water strata. The wells are sealed from the surroundings from the surface to well below water bearing layers.

    Again, fracking dates from the Model T Ford. It is not new. It IS old and well tested.

    And it is a way to supply the US with energy for decades to come.

      • alex

        Not all these chemicals were in use just like not all the parts in cars we have now were used in the model T. But they have been perfected and adapted to create the safest most efficient way. Its hard to explain how fracking works and that most of all drill fluids, optimization fluids and fracking fluids are returned, recycled and used in other procedures or purified to cleaner than the drinking water that comes out of your faucet. I haven’t spent many years in this field learning the most I can so don’t think you know what is going on in this industry because some reporter said something and now its fact. There is plenty of jobs hiring take one, and learn then tell me what you think. Glad InventorNC seems to be know what hes talking about.

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