The 2012 Legislative Session was especially notable for authorizing legislation to set the stage for energy exploration in North Carolina. The legislature also passed several important bills to limit job-killing environmental regulations, while maintaining environmental protection.
On the eve of the 2012 session adjournment, the General Assembly managed to override the Governor’s veto of SB 820, a bill to allow hydraulic fracturing, often called “fracking,” in North Carolina. The long-awaited law passed with bipartisan support, including the stated support of Democratic gubernatorial nominee Lt. Governor Walter Dalton. Energy exploration will likely bring new revenue and energy jobs to North Carolina.
During the vote, Rep. Becky Carney (D-Mecklenburg) supposedly accidentally voted to override the veto on fracking legislation. As stated in the House rules, the vote was not allowed to be changed as it would have altered the fate of the legislation. Leadership quickly held a clincher vote to ensure no further motion to reconsider could be made. To nobody’s surprise, the 72-47 vote was met with passionate spin by those opposing the legislation.
We have all heard those in opposition claiming that fracking will cause geological catastrophe in North Carolina, degrade the quality of drinking water, and generally pave the way to an ecological nightmare. Despite these claims, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that energy exploration will have significant economic benefits, while still upholding our state’s history of environmental stewardship.
The bill resurrects the old Mining Commission in order to devise necessary safety regulations and rules for the practice of horizontal drilling/natural gas extraction. This Commission will investigate, review, and set regulations for future shale drilling. This bill does not permit energy exploration yet, but does put North Carolina on a path for future investment and energy sector growth.
Geological studies across the state show that a generation of working North Carolinians could benefit from the extraction of natural gas. Estimates by state geologists show that there is a significant amount of shale gas beneath several counties in the Piedmont region. Years of economic growth and development will not only directly benefit those living in North Carolina, but will produce an economy that will foster other forms of business expansion. A recent study also predicts that American consumers will see over $100 billion in economic benefits from fracking, even when considering possible costs.
North Carolina needs to continue to embrace energy exploration, not only for new jobs and economic benefits, but also to come one step closer to energy independence. The passage of this bill is a great moment that symbolizes the direction North Carolina is set to move in.
The legislature also passed HB 819, the so-called “Sea Level Rise” bill. This bill received frequent mocking from liberals both in North Carolina and nationally, including on “The Daily Show,” for supposedly outlawing sea level rise. Of course the bill did not, and never attempted, to do any such thing. In its final form, the legislation states that North Carolina cannot set the rates of projected sea-level rise for regulatory purposes until 2016. It also calls for the science panel of the Costal Resources Commission to review and update a 2010 report on sea-level rise. The 2010 report has been criticized by those opposed to it, including a reviewer of the UN IPCC final report, for its cherry-picking of data and using worst case assumptions to predict probable sea-level rise. Unrealistic projections of sea-level rise could hinder development and economic growth in over 20 North Carolina coastal counties.
The legislature also passed HB 952, the State Air Toxics Program Reforms Law, which exempts those sources of emissions that are already covered by federal emission standards from NC air toxins regulations. This law will ensure North Carolina stays clean and healthy while remaining economically competitive with neighboring States.