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Frack-7If you want to understand why the potential for fracking to be a success in North Carolina (either for our economy or our environment) is very, very small, be sure to check out Professor Rob Jackson’s op-ed in this morning’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer. His prediction: A very low economic impact driven my marginal exploration companies with little incentive to clean up the messes they make. As the essay notes:

“The shale gas business is similar to Las Vegas, where the casinos know if enough people gamble they’ll make money because the odds are in their favor. Companies work to set the best odds possible in terms of rules and incentives and then drill a lot of wells knowing that most of them will lose money. They’re banking on the quarter or third that strike it rich. It’s an economy of scale.

In North Carolina, we don’t have an economy of scale. It’s true that we’re still learning about our resource here. We don’t know exactly how thick the shale deposits are. We don’t know whether we’ll have 2 percent organic carbon content or 10 percent, or how much propane, butane and even oil we’ll have.

We do know one thing for certain: The total area of shales in our state is tiny compared with other areas in the U.S. and other countries in the world. Nothing is going to change that fact. It’s also the reason big companies aren’t paying attention to North Carolina.

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MCcRORY SIGNS FRACKING BILLGovernor Pat McCrory, backed by Republican legislators and his Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources, signed the controversial Energy Modernization Act Wednesday morning. The legislation speeds up the start of natural gas drilling in North Carolina.

The governor said the bill, which zipped through both chambers last week with limited debate, will bring good jobs to rural North Carolina.

“We have watched and waited as other states moved forward with energy exploration, and it is finally our turn. This legislation will spur economic development at all levels of our economy, not just the energy sector,” said McCrory.

The governor also pledged that the new law has the necessary protections for the environment.

“The expansion of our energy sector will not come at a cost to our precious environment. This legislation has the safeguards to protect the high quality of life we cherish,” continued the governor.

Environmentalists have warned that the bill doesn’t address some of the most controversial elements of the fracking process, including forced pooling and the disposal of toxic fracking fluid.

“This bill sets a course for fracking to begin in 2015 by default, even though state regulators have not yet proposed draft rules for public comment.  This approach — buying a pig in a poke — will not protect North Carolina from the devastating impacts this industry has visited on communities in other states,” said Grady McCallie, policy director for NC Conservation Network.  “Lawmakers have broken the promise they made in 2012 and again in 2013 — to have the finished package of rules in front of them before deciding whether to allow fracking here — and by his signing, Gov. McCrory has signaled his willingness to put public health and communities at risk, too.”

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Frack-free-400The  editorial page of the Wilmington Star-News joins the long and growing list of opponents to the fast-track fracking bill approved by the General Assembly last week.

Among other things, the paper notes the opposition of conservative Republican lawmaker Rick Catlin of New Hanover County:

“Republican Rep. Rick Catlin voted against the bill, as did Democrat Susi Hamilton; both are from New Hanover County. They understand that there is too much at stake and not enough protections for the public or the taxpayers in this bill. Hamilton notes that under this scenario, the General Assembly would have no review of the rules the commission develops, despite assurances to the contrary in previous legislation.

Catlin, an environmental engineer and hydrogeologist knows a thing or two about the risks of fracking.

He is not opposed to gas exploration – on the contrary, he sees it as potentially beneficial to the state, environmentally and economically, if it is done safely and correctly. But he thinks the state is giving up too much oversight and too much potential revenue….

In other words, whether the people like it or not, drilling will occur – potentially affecting their property, their health and the sovereignty of city and town boards made up of residents who will have to live with whatever the oil and gas companies leave behind. And the state won’t get nearly as much money as other states that allow this practice to occur.

This is what passes for ‘doing the will of the people’ in the new North Carolina.”

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The NC House voted 65-50 Thursday to approve legislation that would allow fracking for natural gas in North Carolina to begin as early as next year. Democrats were unsuccessful as they repeatedly pushed to amend the bill allowing for stronger environmental protections including public disclosure of fracking chemicals and providing cities with greater power in setting future rules.

Rep. Becky Carney criticized House Republicans for tabling several amendments, eliminating any possible  debate:

“I’m astounded that we’re all willing to move forward and say, let an industry, let a mining commission, comprised of industry representatives move forward and develop the rules,” said Carney.”We’re moving forward, permits are being issued, it’s our responsibility. And basically what we did today when we shut down the debate was to say that the bill is all about refusing our right as legislators to see the rules.”

In the end, eleven House Republicans voted against the Energy Modernization Act.

The NC Senate gave its approval to the bill just hours after its passage by the House. The measure now heads to Governor McCrory, who has said he will sign the measure.

To hear a portion of Thursday’s debate, click below. To see how individual members of the House voted,  click here.

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Golf ball on teeState lawmakers are rushing through a bevy of important and destructive bills during the 2014 short session — often with remarkably little process or debate.  The Senate is even going so far as to take the most important bill of the session — the 274-page budget bill — from its moment of unveiling to final passage in just 48 hours. Meanwhile, House Speaker Thom Tillis threatened his chamber with a rare Friday session if they didn’t speed along a bill to legalize fracking.

Ah, but happily, the mad rush doesn’t apply to all matters. According to an announcement emailed out early this afternoon by the House Commerce and Jobs Development Committee, that august body will be devoting two full hours of precious short session time next Thursday to the subject of golf. This is from the announcement:

“NORTH CAROLINA HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
JOINT COMMITTEE MEETING NOTICE AND BILL SPONSOR NOTIFICATION
2013-2014 SESSION

You are hereby notified that the House Committee on Commerce and Job Development will meet as follows:

DAY & DATE: Thursday, June 5, 2014
TIME: 10:00 AM
LOCATION: 544 LOB
COMMENTS: This is an informational meeting. The objective of the NC Golf Economic Impact meeting is to review the historic and ongoing economic contributions golf has made to the state. When examined in a historic context one reaches a simple conclusion: NC has been very good for golf and golf has returned the favor in kind. Read More