Fracking bill whisked through committee without public comment

More distasteful sausage was ground at the General Assembly this morning — this time in the House Committee on (Pillaging the) Environment. As reported in many places, the subject was fracking and the apparently irresistable move to get a law on the books legalizing the practice in North Carolina for the first time.

The committee meeting was notable and disheartening for a number of reasons –

  • the lack of genuine debate and dialogue,
  • the sponsor’s constant refrain in response to any question or criticism that it would be dealt with later, 
  • Committee Chair Rep. Ruth Samuelson’s refusal to allow any comment from the members of the public — even those who had asked ahead of time to be heard,
  • the testimony of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Deputy Director that her agency cannot possibly comply with the bill’s ambitious demands for a complex and expedited rule-making process with its present staffing,
  • the refusal of the sponsor of the bill to accept any amendment — even one offered by Rep. Verla Insko to prohibit the placement of registered lobbyists on the commissions that will oversee the industry!

But here was the main thing that really ought to make citizens of all stripes angry: This morning, state lawmakers passed an enormously complicated 30-page bill through a crtically important committee 45 minutes after it was first unveiled in its present form. (As you can see by clicking here, the current version is not even available online yet). Reports indicate that they are intent on passing it into law within the week.

This is the kind of absurd lack of process that is fast becoming the standard M.O. for the current North Carolina General Assembly and that ultimately reflects an abiding contempt for government and governing.

3 Comments

  1. david esmay

    June 13, 2012 at 12:30 pm

    Lawrence Lessig’s observations playing out before our eyes. On one hand you’ve got fracking lobbyists and the politicians they bought, and on the other hand, the public. “Thats government, just not a democracy.”

  2. Verla Insko

    June 14, 2012 at 8:14 am

    Despite objections to my amendment to keep lobbyist off the regulatory board, I discovered this issue is already covered by our ethics statutes, G.S. 120C-304(e); (e)

  3. [...] One week after passing the Senate, the fracking bill (S820) made its way through the House.  The bill only had one committee stop in the House, at 8:30 Wednesday morning in the House Environment Committee, where a brand new version of the bill was revealed for the first time.  The meeting began with bill handlers Rep. Mike Stone (R-Lee) and Rep. Mitch Gillespie (R-McDowell) explaining the process the bill had been through to get to its current version.  They pointed out that the bill had been improved since it passed the Senate, and claimed that they had addressed most concerns of many of the critics of the bill.  Next, legislative staff explained each section of the 30 page bill.  After the explanation, the floor was opened for members of the committee to ask questions of the bill sponsors and staff.  One particularly interesting line of questioning came when committee members asked DENR Assistant Secretary Robin Smith about how the bill would be implemented.  When asked about the staff resources needed, Smith replied that they would need at least seven new staff positions to implement the bill.  Notably, the current bill does not appropriate any money to DENR.  When asked about how long it would take to research, draft, and adopt new rules under the current Administrative Procedures Act rulemaking process, Smith replied that it would take at least 3-4 years.  Notably, the bill gives all agencies two years to complete the task.  Although citizens were told they would have a chance to comment on the bill, and some signed up the night before and took off work to be at the committee, the committee did not take public comment on the bill during its one committee stop in the House. You can read coverage of Wednesday’s committee meeting here, here, and here. [...]