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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

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This is from a statement released yesterday by the good people at the Environmental Defense Fund:

“The NC House is poised to approve S 786, the fracking bill, despite previous assurances to citizens to protect air and water quality and delay voting to issue permits until safety regulations are in place. It is premature for legislators to lift the prohibition on issuing permits for oil and gas drilling. Lawmakers should stick to the original plan: delay any vote on hydraulic fracturing until after the Mining and Energy Commission (MEC) approves regulations that reflect community concerns about health and safety.

Lawmakers break their pledges. Read More

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FrackingIt was the administration of President George W. Bush that attempted to mask a giveaway to big timber corporations by plastering the label “Healthy Forests Initiative” on the whole scam. Now, in keeping with that proud tradition of deception in the cause of lifting up environmental degradation and corporate profits, North Carolina legislative leaders are attempting to ram through a new law to expedite the introduction of fracking into the state by disingenuously dubbing it the “Energy Modernization Act.”

Fracking is many things, but it is not “energy modernization.” Indeed, fracking represents “modernization” about as much as the widespread reintroduction of corporal punishment  would represent “education modernization.”

The fact of the matter is that fracking has been done for decades in the U.S. My own father “fracked” oil wells during the Eisenhower administration back in the 1950’s.

If anything, fracking represents the opposite of modernization — it is mid-20th Century fossil fuel exploitation at its destructive worst.  And while it appears that conservative politicians are bent on (and will not be dissuaded from) trying to bring fracking and the mess it produces to our fair state, the least they could do is be honest in labeling their efforts.