While state rules regulating fracking take effect today, the state Senate passed a bill yesterday which scuttled state-specific air quality standards for fracking operations in favor of looser federal standards.

The bill has been sent to Governor Pat McCrory to be signed into law.

The Senate voted Monday to approve the House bill, which according to North Carolina Policy Watch “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.”

Republican Sen. Ron Rabin, who represents Lee and Harnett counties, voted in favor, while Democratic Sen. Valerie Foushee, who represents Orange and Chatham counties, voted against. When natural gas exploration begins in North Carolina, Lee and Chatham are expected to be the primary focal points of drilling activity.

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.

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