North Carolina Senate approves bill to allow fracking
(McClatchy Newspapers; June 7) - The North Carolina Senate approved the legalization of fracking June 6, just hours after the U.S. Geological Survey issued an estimate that the state has far less gas than earlier assessments showed. The bill now goes to the House, where it is widely expected to win approval by the Republican-led chamber. The federal assessment is that the state has 1.7 trillion cubic feet of gas in the Deep River Basin, a much less optimistic number than earlier estimates by state geologists.
Opponents of fracking seized on the federal report to urge delay of legalizing the practice, but Sen. Bob Rucho of Mecklenburg County, who is leading the fracking campaign, was not moved. "The only way you'll ever know is by actually punching down some wells," he said. The legislation, which passed on a vote of 29-19 in the Senate, proposes sweeping changes to North Carolina's energy policy by clearing the way for exploration for natural gas.
The bill contains numerous provisions to protect the environment but largely serves as a set of marching orders to a new state Mining & Energy Commission tasked with creating the necessary safeguards and protections. Seven of the commission's nine voting members would be mining industry representatives or people with experience in oil and gas exploration. Two slots would be set aside for people experienced in environmental conservation. Members would be appointed by the governor and General Assembly.