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Fracking bill whisked through committee without public comment

More distasteful sausage was ground at the General Assembly this morning — this time in the House Committee on (Pillaging the) Environment. As reported in many places, the subject was fracking and the apparently irresistable move to get a law on the books legalizing the practice in North Carolina for the first time.

The committee meeting was notable and disheartening for a number of reasons —

  • the lack of genuine debate and dialogue,
  • the sponsor’s constant refrain in response to any question or criticism that it would be dealt with later, 
  • Committee Chair Rep. Ruth Samuelson’s refusal to allow any comment from the members of the public — even those who had asked ahead of time to be heard,
  • the testimony of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Deputy Director that her agency cannot possibly comply with the bill’s ambitious demands for a complex and expedited rule-making process with its present staffing,
  • the refusal of the sponsor of the bill to accept any amendment — even one offered by Rep. Verla Insko to prohibit the placement of registered lobbyists on the commissions that will oversee the industry!

But here was the main thing that really ought to make citizens of all stripes angry: This morning, state lawmakers passed an enormously complicated 30-page bill through a crtically important committee 45 minutes after it was first unveiled in its present form. (As you can see by clicking here, the current version is not even available online yet). Reports indicate that they are intent on passing it into law within the week.

This is the kind of absurd lack of process that is fast becoming the standard M.O. for the current North Carolina General Assembly and that ultimately reflects an abiding contempt for government and governing.

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Fracking bill whisked through committee without public comment