A new bill surfaced in the state Senate to set rules and authorize drilling for natural gas under the surface of North Carolina. The legislature passed Senate bill 709 that would have done the same thing but Governor Perdue vetoed it last year.
Senator Bob Rucho (R-Mecklenburg) introduced SB820 in the Senate Commerce Committee to bring back an old panel to get the so-called “fracking” exploration started. His bill would reconstitute the Mining Commission of the 1940’s and rename it the Mining and Energy Commission. It would have 14 members consisting of state regulators and members appointed by the Governor and the legislature. It would be under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, which has already said the gas exploration could be done safely with the rights rules. It would be the job of the commission to set those rules. Sen. Rucho said the work has to get started soon to know how much shale gas is available:
But environmental activists, such as Elizabeth Ouzts with Environment North Carolina, aren’t waiting for the exploration they are already saying it won’t amount to anything:
State geologists still say there could be a 40 year supply of natural gas under North Carolina. But no one knows for sure until the state authorizes companies to drill and explore. That may be two years down the road if the new commission begins setting up the rules now.
Rucho’s bill gives the commission a head start by establishing new rules on how companies could explore. It outlines lease agreements to protect land owners and how the companies would protect the land and water resources. Those companies would be presumed to be responsible for any damage to the environment and the land owner’s resources.