This was released today by the good people at Environment North Carolina:

North Carolina officials want local control of fracking

Raleigh, NC– More than 70 mayors, county commissioners, city councilors, and other elected officials from communities across North Carolina issued a letter to Governor Pat McCrory today, calling for the local authority to limit and prohibit dangerous fracking operations. The letter’s release follows another bill passed by the legislature to constrict local authority of the drilling practice.

“As local elected officials, we are deeply concerned about the significant and growing threat hydraulic fracturing poses to our health and environment,” reads the letter, organized by the advocacy group Environment North Carolina, the statewide advocacy group. “We urge you to stand up for the right of all communities to determine whether, where, and how this dirty drilling is conducted within their own borders.”

During the last legislative session, the General Assembly circumvented local government authority by restricting municipalities from placing any regulations on fracking. Last year, the legislature prevented communities from banning fracking from their jurisdictions.

North Carolina isn’t alone in this trend. In May Texas adopted a law barring local regulations of fracking, invalidating measures in Denton and other Texas communities. Oklahoma soon followed suit.

The battle over who regulates fracking comes as the scientific evidence against the drilling technique continues to mount. An analysis of recent peer-reviewed studies determined that 72 percent of them showed “indication of potential, positive association, or actual incidence of water contamination.”

The best way for North Carolina to protect public health from fracking is to follow the lead of states like Maryland and New York and prevent it from beginning altogether, Environment North Carolina said today. Until then, city and county governments should have the chance to protect their citizens from harm, said the group.

“Local communities deserve clean water and clean air, so they deserve local control of fracking,” said Liz Kazal, field director for Environment North Carolina.

Click here to read the entire letter.


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 fracking
click here!

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.


North Carolina environmental advocates are having trouble listing all the bad new laws and money decisions crammed into the 400-plus page budget agreement. As the good people at the League of Conservation Voters reported in an update this afternoon, the budget agreement includes provisions:

  • Allowing the Renewable Energy Investment Tax Credit (REITC) to expire. For every $1 in tax credit allotted to our renewable energy industry, it has generated $1.54 in new state and local revenue. That means more money is coming into our coffers, creating jobs and drawing in a total economic impact of $4.7 billion. Allowing the REITC to expire will likely damage North Carolina’s ability to attract new businesses and investors, especially for our state’s Tier 1 and Tier 2 counties that have received more than $1.9 billion in direct investment thanks to REITC.
  • Earmarking $500,000 for shale gas exploration (aka “fracking”). The irony of allowing a “subsidy” for solar to expire but include half a million dollars in handouts to an industry that already has the funds and the competitive advantage shouldn’t be lost on anyone. Regardless, this is a terrible use of state revenue dollars.
  • Creating loopholes for repeat violators and reducing penalties for those who break state sediment and erosion control laws. While we were pleased to see the Sedimentation Control Commission remain intact, this overseeing body won’t be able to actually enforce any of the rules and protect us and our natural resources from pollution with these gaping holes.
  • Extending funding for the botched SolarBee project to the tune of $1.5 million and delaying the implementation of the Jordan Lake Rules for at least three more years. This simply allows the pollution load to grow and grow, making future clean up efforts even more difficult and costly.

The LCV list doesn’t include the decision to expand controversial terminal groins that will liteally change the shape of the state’s coastline or, undoubtedly, numerous other provisions that will only come to light days after the new budget is law.

In other words, the news from Jones Street is bad and getting worse.


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, 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:

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

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


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.