There is already a moratorium in place that prevents hydraulic fracturing – also known as “fracking” – in North Carolina. Republican policymakers in the state are moving with remarkable speed, however, to change that.
The state House gave tentative approval Wednesday to a proposal that would allow natural gas drilling to start in the state as soon as rules for the industry are finalized. Senate Bill 786 passed its first of two votes, 63-52.The legislation was first unveiled in the House less than 24 hours before the vote, moving through two committees with almost no public notice. It was moved onto the House floor Wednesday through a parliamentary maneuver.
It’s not yet a done deal, but it’s close. The state House is expected to hold a final vote today, followed by action from the Republican-led state House. Gov. Pat McCrory (R), who would presumably sign the measure into law, could have the bill on his desk for consideration by next week.
The state House, it’s worth noting, is currently run by Speaker Thom Tillis (R), who also happens to be the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate in North Carolina this year. He’ll face incumbent Sen. Kay Hagan (D) in the fall. And in this case, the state House Speaker doesn’t usually vote on legislation, but he made sure to cast a vote in support of fracking yesterday.
Note, the fracking bill would also make it illegal for anyone “to reveal a driller’s formula for fracking fluid.”
In the event of a catastrophe, however, the proposal allows first responders to “find out what chemicals they’re dealing with.” How generous of the bill’s sponsors to be so accommodating.
What if a local North Carolina community decided it wanted to prohibit fracking? Too bad – the pending legislation wouldn’t allow cities or towns to ban or limit the controversial practice.
And it’s not like North Carolina has had to deal with any environmental disasters lately that might make some communities skittish, right?
To be sure, the moratorium in the state probably wasn’t going to last forever, but GOP policymakers appear to be moving with remarkable efficiency to bring fracking to North Carolina as quickly as they can.
The bill repeals a 2012 requirement that lawmakers vote to approve rules for fracking before the state’s moratorium on it could be lifted. Instead, the state is directed to begin issuing permits for drilling 60 days after the state Mining and Energy Commission finalizes the rules.
Asked why lawmakers are rushing, Tillis told reporters, “I think it’s just a matter of why not get it done?”
In this case, “get it done” means moving forward on a controversial, potentially dangerous practice without debate or public comment.