Fracking bill becomes law

Parliamentary maneuver allows bill to squeak by despite errant vote
For immediate release

Raleigh, NC—Without allowing any debate, house lawmakers used a parliamentary maneuver and an errant vote to override Governor Perdue’s veto of a sweeping measure that paves the way for a controversial method of gas drilling called “fracking” as soon as 2014.

“Adopting sweeping fracking policy without adequate study is bad enough,” said Elizabeth Ouzts, Environment North Carolina State Director.  “Doing so with a tricky parliamentary maneuver and an accidental vote is shameful.”

Proponents lacked the required three-fifths majority to override the veto, but Rep. Becky Carney, a Democrat from Mecklenburg County, pushed the wrong button and a “clincher” motion by Wake County Rep. Paul “Skip” Stam prevented her from changing it, giving the fracking measure a one-vote margin of victory.

 Fracking, short for “hydraulic fracturing,” is the process by which water, sand, and toxic chemicals are injected into wells at high pressure in order to extract shale gas.

State laws currently prohibit two key aspects of the technology: horizontal drilling and injecting chemicals into the ground.  Senate Bill 820 lifts those prohibitions and tasks a new, industry-influenced commission with developing rules that could allow the practice as soon as 2014.

A 484-page analysis from the state’s environmental agency documents the extent to which fracking has contaminated water supplies and waterways around the country, and calls for seven additional studies, none of which are addressed by the bill.

Clean water advocates also criticized Rep. Susi Hamilton, Democrat of New Hanover County, who had signed a letter urging the governor to veto the fracking bill but voted for the veto override—ostensibly in return for additional incentives for the film industry.

“Rep. Hamilton’s vote in favor of fracking was a real disappointment,” said Ouzts.