Republican state Senator Bill Rabon of Brunswick County introduced a bill in the North Carolina General Assembly Wednesday which would put former state Representative and friend of the Rant Mike Stone as well as Lee GOP chairman Jim Womack on the North Carolina Oil and Gas Commission, the Rant has learned.
Senate Bill 694 deals with about three dozen appointments to various state boards and commissions, pulling from recommendations made by state Senate President Phil Berger and state House Speaker Tim Moore.
The Oil and Gas Commission is a successor body to the old Mining and Energy Commission, which under Womack’s chairmanship recommended various fracking rules to the legislature in 2015.
Womack’s appointment was somewhat expected after a snafu last month in which he attempted to call a meeting of the OGC but was apparently not a member of it due to his not having been reappointed after it was dissolved and reconstituted following a separation of powers lawsuit filed against the legislature by then Governor Pat McCrory and subsequent 2015 judgement in his favor.
Still, the appointment will likely prove controversial. Womack’s tenure on the Lee County Board of Commissioners from 2010 to 2014 was widely regarded as tumultuous, both on grounds of public policy and personal behavior, and his full throated defense of fracking is likely to concern local and state environmental groups who oppose bringing the practice to Lee and Chatham counties. The Lee County Board of Commissioners took steps this week (subscription required) to extend its fracking moratorium by up to two more years.
Womack elected not to seek a second term in 2014. He became chairman of the Lee GOP earlier this year before immediately mounting an ultimately failed campaign for the chairmanship of the North Carolina Republican Party. Since then, he’s become a regular fixture on the editorial pages of the Sanford Herald, despite apparently blocking out its news staff.
Stone’s appointment also seems likely to prove controversial. The former Sanford city councilman served in the state House from 2010 until his defeat in 2014. In addition to his consistent votes in support of fracking, his two terms were marked by largely decried moves to make partisan elections for the Sanford City Council and the Lee County Board of Education, ethical questions over his ties to the video poker industry, bungling of re-election campaign advertising, and disrespect for the First Amendment.
Since losing his 2014 re-election bid, he has remained active in the public sphere through a series of blazing political takes on a local right wing political Facebook group (of which he is apparently an administrator).
Senator Rabon’s bill passed multiple readings Wednesday.