Despite strong objections from environmental advocates, lawmakers hurriedly approved a bill that repeals the current law which requires the adoption of state air quality rules by the agency charged with overseeing fracking — the state Mining and Energy Commission. In other words, rather than adopting North Carolina-specific air quality rules for fracking operations (something on which the Commission was already working), the Commission will now be free to take a pass and simply defer to the rudimentary and inadequate federal rules.
Representatives from Lee and Chatham counties – Democrats Robert Reives II and Brad Salmon, respectively – both voted against the bill. When natural gas exploration begins in North Carolina, Lee and Chatham are expected to be the primary focal points of drilling activity. Moore County Rep. Jamie Boles voted in favor of the bill.
The bill is not law until passed by the state Senate and signed by Governor Pat McCrory. It’s unclear whether there is currently a timetable for a senate vote.
As mentioned in the Policy Watch story, the state’s Mining and Energy Commission had been working on local air quality rules. Former Lee County Commissioner Jim Womack and Sanford City Councilman Charles Taylor, both Republicans, serve on that body as appointed members.