The Winston-Salem Journal takes the Republican-led legislature to task in Friday’s paper for its 11th hour effort to protect oil and gas companies that have an interest in fracking.
As the WSJ’s editorial board explains:
‘In the final hours of its session last week, the legislature passed a bill that includes a provision that counters moratia passed by local governments on fracking, the Journal’s Bertrand M. Gutierrez reported Tuesday. It describes as “invalidated and unenforceable” local ordinances that place conditions on fracking that go beyond those restrictions already set by state oil-and-gas regulations.
This counters a unanimous vote by Stokes County commissioners in September to halt oil-and-gas operations for three years — time the commissioners say they need to review land-use rules aimed at boosting environmental protections. And it comes in the midst of other counties considering similar actions.
Some counties in the state will probably welcome fracking and its significant economic potential within their jurisdictions. But those counties who don’t want it should have every right to reject it, just as they should have every right to decide many other issues primarily affecting them.
And measures promoting fracking shouldn’t be thrust through at the last moment.
Rep. Bryan Holloway, R-King, voted for Senate Bill 119, an omnibus bill tweaking many laws, but indicated he regrets his vote. He had gotten word from House leaders that the bill covered merely technical changes, he told the Journal. “Had I known the provision was in there, I wouldn’t have voted for it.”
Too bad those who pushed the bill didn’t afford him — and the rest of the legislature — and the citizens of the state — the opportunity to vet their brand-new idea.
Some have raised questions about the provision’s legal strength. The provision’s effect will initially be up to the state Oil and Gas Commission, which faces its own legal challenge. Rick Morris, the Stokes County manager, told the Journal “our moratorium will remain in effect as passed.”
But unfortunately, as Gutierrez indicated in a follow-up story Thursday, the provision against such moratoriums may well stand.
Mary Kerley, who helped start the grassroots group No Fracking in Stokes, said the bill’s last-minute passage was a “sneaky” act.’
Read the Journal’s full editorial here. For more on the troubling passage of Senate Bill 119, read Chris Fitzsimon’s column from earlier this week: More evidence of the problem with the way the legislature moves.