Word has it that right-wingers in the General Assembly may use the first days of the 2012 short session to push new legislation to quickly expedite the legalization of the controversial natural gas drilling technique known as fracking that is currently illegal in North Carolina. (As an aside. environmental advocates will be pushing back next Monday with a “Lobby Night” at the General Assembly ).
Here are a few reasons this is clearly a bit of shameless and misguided political theater:
1. They really have no idea what they’re doing. As has been reported repeatedly in recent months, the studies ain’t all in on the potential impacts of fracking in North Carolina. At the very least, we need to wait till they’re in before leaping ahead.
2. The infrastructure needed to oversee and regulate fracking does not exist. North Carolina isn’t Texas or Pennsylvania. We simply don’t have the expertise or personnel in our regulatory agencies that would be necessary to bring such an industry to the state in the near future.
3. Most importantly, fracking simply isn’t economically viable in North Carolina right now and won’t be anytime soon. The price of natural gas is too low and our deposits too scarce. Even if we legalized it tomorrow, fracking isn’t going to happen in the foreseeable future.
Add to this the fact that the public is opposed to fast-tracking the issue (see question #9 in yesterday’s Carolina Issues Poll ) and one thing become clear: The only reason that conservatives would push this matter forward right away is to throw some red meat to the ill-informed and misguided right-wing base.
Come to think of it, however, that explains a lot of the harebrained ideas that seem to percolating to the top of the legislative agenda these days. Let’s hope the base is satisfied with a little noise-making about the issue and that, when it comes to actual lawmaking, cooler (and cautious) heads prevail on this issue.