Fracking Veto Fails to Stand; House Overrides on 'Mistake'
The deciding vote in the fracking debate turned out to be accidental.
State Rep. Becky Carney, a Mecklenburg County Democrat who opposes fracking, pushed the wrong button late Monday night and voted with Republicans to override Gov. Beverly Perdue’s veto of Senate Bill 820.
Carney tried to change her vote, but a parliamentary maneuver by House Majority Leader Skip Stam, a Wake County Republican, prevented her from doing so.
“She said she made an honest mistake,” said state Rep. Jamie Boles, a Republican who represents most of Moore County. “We have to take her for her word.”
Boles, who voted for the override, said the 72-46 outcome capped “quite an emotional day.”
“The biggest thing is to know you’re part of North Carolina history because it was first time the General Assembly ever overrode three vetoes in one day,” Boles said. “I was born and raised in North Carolina, so the significance is not lost on me.”
Earlier Monday, both the state Senate and the House voted to override Perdue’s vetoes of the Racial Justice Act and the 2012-2013 state budget.
Molly Diggins, state director of the N.C. Sierra Club, said she was disappointed that the House leadership took advantage of a procedural error to override the governor’s veto of fracking, a controversial form of extracting natural gas.
“Our drinking water has now been put at risk, even though the required three-fifths of the members did not want to override,” Diggins said. “How ironic that in an industry plagued with accidents, hydraulic fracturing — or fracking — became legal in North Carolina based on an accidental vote.”
Perdue vetoed the bill on Sunday, citing the General Assembly’s unwillingness to ensure that adequate protections for drinking water, landowners, county and municipal governments, and the health and safety of families are in place before fracking begins.
“I hope the General Assembly will revisit this issue and strengthen the safeguards before fracking begins,” Perdue said Monday.
Fracking is germane to northern Moore County, which lies atop the Deep River Basin, where state geologists initially believed a 40-year supply of natural gas exists. But a recently released U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) assessment showed that the Deep River Basin has an amount of natural gas equivalent to 5.6 years of usage based on 2010 consumption rates in North Carolina.
The bill creates an Energy and Mining Commission that will conduct studies and create regulations to govern fracking. The commission is tasked with completing its work by October 2014.
The General Assembly would then have to take a separate vote to approve the commission’s work before drilling could be permitted.
Boles called the override “a great step.”
“It allows the state of North Carolina to implement rules and regulations for fracking, but it in no way allows drilling in the state,” he said. “We’re going to make sure we do this right.”
Boles and other fracking supporters tout the new jobs and tax revenue that fracking will bring to North Carolina. They claim the risks are manageable with the right laws and regulations.
There is a contentious worldwide debate over whether fracking is safe, and there is little scientific evidence to fill an information gap that has made it difficult for lawmakers and the public to understand the risks.
Contact Ted M. Natt at (910) 693-2474 or by email at tnatt@ thepilot.com.
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