Raleigh, NC—The N.C. House voted for a bill today to allow fracking permits to be issued on March 1, 2015, undoing a key provision of a 2012 law that placed a moratorium on the controversial drilling process. The bill, S.B. 76, now goes back to the state Senate for approval.
"Last year, lawmakers promised to examine all the threats fracking poses to our drinking water before even considering moving forward with this risky drilling practice," said Elizabeth Ouzts, state director for Environment North Carolina. "This bill breaks that promise."
Fracking, short for “hydraulic fracturing,” is the process by which large volumes of water, sand, and toxic chemicals are injected into wells at high pressure in order to extract shale gas. The technique produces millions of gallons of wastewater laden with chemicals and naturally occurring radioactivity.
How to treat vast amounts of toxic wastewater is just one of the many regulatory issues associated with gas drilling that the state's Mining and Energy Commission is tasked with resolving by October 2014.
The new version of Senate Bill 76 would allow fracking permits to be issued in 2015, even though the conditions of those permits haven't been established. The permits would not become effective, however, without another act of the General Assembly.
The unusual policy of issuing permits without allowing them to become effective raised a host of practical implementation questions during debate, most of which remain unanswered.
"The General Assembly will be under tremendous pressure to rush to frack, putting the drinking water for roughly 2.4 million people in the piedmont and on the coast at risk," said Ouzts.
The bill also promotes drilling off the Outer Banks and the rest of the state's beaches, and reconfigures the state's Energy Policy Council to focus on drilling and fracking over energy efficient building design and clean energy.
"This bill is less damaging than the Senate version," said Ouzts. "But it still threatens our drinking water and our coast, and charts the wrong course for our energy future."
Environment North Carolina is a statewide, citizen-funded advocacy group, working to protect the places we love and the values we share.