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frackThis spring, organizations across North Carolina are joining together to host “Fracking Stories,” a statewide screening tour of six short documentaries that explore the public health and environmental consequences of hydraulic fracturing (fracking), and the ways that communities are coming together to respond. The events will provide an opportunity for audiences to learn about the issues, speak with community members, and gain information about how to get involved.

The North Carolina screening tour is co-presented by Clean Water for North Carolina, The Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, Appalachian Voices, and Working Films. In addition to the statewide partners, local collaborators include Pee Dee WALL, The Mountain People’s Assembly, WNC Frack Free, The Durham People’s Alliance, Sustainable Sandhills, The Winyah Rivers Foundation, The Haw River Assembly, 350.org Triangle, The Sierra Club Capitol Group, The Justice in a Changing Climate group at Community UCC, The Good Stewards of Rockingham, NC WARN, Temple Emanuel Environmental Movement (TEEM), No Fracking in Stokes, Carolina Taste, The New Hanover County NAACP, and The Cape Fear Group of the Sierra Club.

The series kicked off earlier this week in Pittsboro. Here’s the remainder of the schedule:

Fayetteville
Saturday May 23rd, 11:00am
Cameo Art House
225 Hay St, Fayetteville, NC 28301
Hosted by: Sustainable Sandhills

Raleigh
Tuesday May 26th, 7pm
Community UCC
814 Dixie Trail, Raleigh, NC 27607
Hosted by: 350.org Triangle, Sierra Club Capital Group, and The Justice in a Changing Climate Group at CUCC Read More

News

FrackingA Wake County Superior Court judge effectively halted fracking in the state for the time being when he stayed proceedings in a constitutional challenge to the state’s Mining and Energy Commission brought by a local conservation group and landowner.

The stay continues while the appeal of a separate case challenging commission appointment powers — McCrory v. Berger — is pending, during which time the MEC is enjoined from accepting or processing permit applications for drilling units and from creating any drilling units.

The order today comes in a lawsuit in which plaintiffs allege that the composition of the MEC violates the separation of powers provision of the state Constitution because a majority of the commission’s members are political appointees by the legislature, and that the fracking rules, created by an unconstitutional commission, are therefore null and void.

Those allegations are similar to what’s been asserted in the McCrory v. Berger case, in which Gov. Pat McCrory and former Governors Hunt and Martin are challenging legislative appointments to the Coal Ash Commission, Oil and Gas Commission, and the MEC as violations of the separation of powers provisions of the State Constitution.

The governors’ case is set for argument before the state Supreme Court on June 30.

“Today’s decision stopped any immediate harm to North Carolina residents from a commission formed by the state legislature in violation of the separation of powers firmly established in our state constitution pending further court deliberations,” John Suttles, the senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center who represented the plaintiffs said in a statement.

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News

FrackingAdd the Mining & Energy Commission to the list of commissions whose recently expanded regulatory authority now serves as fodder for a lawsuit.

As IndyWeek reports here, Clean Water for NC & residents of three separate counties filed a lawsuit on Friday challenging the regulatory authority over fracking that state lawmakers took away from local governments:

The complaint, which was filed Friday in Wake County Superior Court, comes from Clean Water for N.C., a group that has lobbied to ban fracking in North Carolina for several years. The legal challenge contends that the N.C. General Assembly violated the state constitution in giving the appointed N.C. Mining and Energy Commission the authority to pre-empt local ordinances in crafting fracking regulations.

A number of local government bodies passed resolutions or ordinances opposing drilling within their counties, but state law—as recommended by the mining commission—holds that no local ordinances would be able to block fracking.

Read a copy of the Clean Water for NC complaint here.

Commentary

This morning’s edition of the Greensboro News & Record has a fine editorial (“Whose property is it, anyway?”) that takes down one of the most pernicious aspects of fracking that was unaddressed by the state’s new law allowing the controversial energy drilling procedure: “forced pooling”:

“Forced pooling began with good intentions. It was meant to limit the number of wells and make sure that landowners weren’t denied payment for oil and gas lying below their property. Unfortunately, the practice can be turned against them.

Natural gas may lie below many properties. Owners can pool their interests to command a good price and limit how many wells are drilled. But, if a few owners won’t go along, they could block some of their neighbors from the pool or force the drilling of additional wells, raising costs. Laws in many states can compel them to join, awarding them a fair share of the proceeds and in some cases assigning them a portion of the costs.”

The editorial explains that Virginia just defeated a bill that would have allowed the practice there and and urges support for legislation by Rep. Bryan Holloway that would ban forced pooling in North Carolina too. One would think that such a measure — which Holloway rightfully defends as being about property rights — would be a no-brainer for conservatives, but it’s funny how sweet-talking by big energy companies has a way of trumping ideology for those on the right.

An informal poll on the N&R website yesterday found that readers opposed forced polling by a ratio of about 15 to 1. We’ll see who state legislators are listening to in the coming weeks: average people and landowners or fat cat energy lobbyists. Stay tuned.

Commentary

Offshore oil platformThe debate over fracking in North Carolina and the threat it poses to the long-term well-being of humans and the environment in certain parts of the state is obviously hugely important. But there’s a strong argument to be made that the threat from offshore oil and gas drilling is significantly larger and more worrisome.

Not only would offshore drilling and the potential for oil spills put thousands of miles of coastline, our wonderful beaches and estuaries and the fragile marine ecology of of our Outer Continental Shelf at perpetual risk, it would pose enormous threats to the overall way of life of the state’s coastal communities. Put simply: Do we really want to turn the North Carolina coast into Louisiana?

If you share some or all of these concerns, there are two things to do:

#1 – Consider submitting comments to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management by Next Monday March 30. The good folks at the N.C. Coastal Federation have an “how to” here and here.

#2 – Attend the upcoming Crucial Conversation luncheon with expert Sierra Weaver of the Southern Environmental Law Center. Here are the details:

When: Tuesday, April 7, at noon — Box lunches will be available at 11:45 a.m.

Where: Center for Community Leadership Training Room at the Junior League of Raleigh Building, 711 Hillsborough St. (At the corner of Hillsborough and St. Mary’s streets)

Click here for parking info.

Space is limited – preregistration required.

Cost: $10, admission includes a box lunch.

Click here to register

Questions?? Contact Rob Schofield at 919-861-2065 or rob@ncpolicywatch.com