Jim Womack must believe he’s playing with house money.
The chairman of the NC Oil and Gas Commission, Womack yesterday proposed several expensive outlays of taxpayer funds that have no legislative appropriations or resource commitments from other state agencies.
First, he suggested that all nine commission members travel 1,150 miles round-trip to Bradford County, Pa., for three to four days next spring to observe fracking operations and speak to residents. Why Bradford County, which is on the border with New York state? Because Womack, told the commission, he “knows people” there and is friends with one of its Republican county commissioners.
If a majority of oil and gas members were to make the trip, it would qualify as a public meeting. Minutes would have to be taken — plus all receipts of expenses covered by tax dollars would be public record.
Womack said that several years ago Sens. Bob Rucho and Mike Hager had “called him on the carpet” for not taking the Mining and Energy Commission on a field trip to fracking operations. Womack went on his own to Pennsylvania. “You can visualize how the rules come into play,” he enthused. “It was great to go to an active site.”
Commissioner Rebecca Wyhof of Lee County said she wanted to ensure that any such trip is “not one-sided.”
The two and a half hour meeting, of which 20 percent was spent scheduling meetings into 2019, (thus consuming the time of the five environmental department employees whose job was to attend) accomplished little. Yet there were indications that Womack either has an inside track on state funding or simply doesn’t know what certain activities cost.