Raleigh, NC—Permits for fracking could be issued in North Carolina as early as May 2015, according to a measure that cleared the N.C. General Assembly this evening.
Unveiled just over a week ago, the "fast-track fracking" bill lifts the state's moratorium and expedites rulemaking for the controversial form of drilling. The bill now heads to the desk of Gov. Pat McCrory, a well-known fracking proponent.
"Fracking has contaminated water across the country," said Elizabeth Ouzts, state director of Environment North Carolina. "And now, sadly, lawmakers have voted to put North Carolina's rivers and the drinking water for millions at risk."
The N.C. House stunned clean-water advocates earlier this week by agreeing to lift the moratorium even sooner in 2015 than the Senate had proposed, even though 120 fracking regulations are incomplete and not yet ready for review.
"We're disappointed to see Speaker Thom Tillis and the House leadership break their promise to the people of North Carolina and put our waters in jeopardy," said Ouzts.
House Democrats today offered a series of amendments today to lessen the environmental impact of the bill. Many were killed with a procedural motion by Rep. Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) to cut off debate. All were defeated, though several Republicans broke ranks to vote in their favor.
One amendment by Rep. Pricey Harrison (D-Guilford) would have prevented the use of pits to store wastewater from fracking, which contains toxic and sometimes cancer-causing substances. In other states, these pits have failed or leaked, much like the state's coal-ash ponds, and contaminated rivers and lakes.
Another amendment by Rep. Becky Carney (D-Mecklenburg) would have restored the moratorium created in 2012, requiring an affirmative vote of the legislature to allow fracking permits to be issued.
Under the bill adopted today, fracking rules could be adopted and permits issued within four months of the start of the 2015 legislative session, without lawmakers ever having the opportunity to amend the rules or stop the permits.
"It's a sad day for North Carolina," said Ouzts. "But the fight's not over. We'll keep urging our state's leaders to do right by our rivers and our people."