N.C. Senate votes to lift fracking moratorium

For immediate release

Raleigh, NC—The N.C. Senate gave final approval today to a bill to lift the state’s moratorium on fracking, the controversial form of natural gas drilling, beginning in March 2015.  The measure, which contains a laundry list of incentives for oil and gas companies, now moves to the House.

"This is a desperate giveaway to big energy companies at the expense of our water," said Elizabeth Ouzts, director of Environment North Carolina.  "It threatens Jordan Lake, the Eno River, and the drinking water for more than 400,000 North Carolinians."

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.

SB 76 allows the underground injection of wastewater, which has been linked to earthquakes in other states.   The Department of Environment and Natural Resources recommended against the practice last spring, citing North Carolina's unique geology.

How to treat vast amounts of toxic wastewater is just one of the regulatory issues associated with gas drilling that the state's Mining and Energy Commission was tasked with resolving by October 2014, according to a controversial law passed last year.  

Proponents of the law argued at the time that legislators would have the chance to approve regulations before voting to lift the moratorium.  SB 76 would lift the moratorium on fracking permits whether or not those regulations are in place.

The measure approved today also bans local governments from taxing energy developers; removes members with expertise in geology and conservation from the Mining and Energy Commission, and eliminates the state’s landman registry for those who offer drilling leases to property owners.

The prospects for the bill in the House are uncertain, where Speaker Tillis has expressed some reservations about the bill.

"We urge Speaker Tillis and the House of Representatives to reject this damaging proposal," said Ouzts.  "Last year, the General Assembly left the door open to protect our waters from gas drilling.   Why slam it shut now?"

Environment North Carolina is a statewide, citizen-funded advocacy group, working to protect the places we love and the values we share.