The Devil is in the Details

By David Streifford, Preserve Carolina (www.preservecarolina.org), with the Researchers at the Voters Legislative Transparency Project (www.vltp.net)

Keep NC Frack Free
North Carolinians need to understand our state Senate’s most recent attempt to circumvent controversial legislation.  Legislation that some legislators approved only because it would give them the opportunity to responsibly review a set of regulations before permitting any hydraulic fracturing.

Let’s step back and look at what has brought us to this terrible point in time.

In June, 2012, the North Carolina General Assembly approved the legalization of fracking in North Carolina, although it was vetoed by then Gov. Bev Perdue (D).

Shell OilInterestingly, after this veto, Governor Perdue took a Shell Oil sponsored trip to review fracking operations in Pennsylvania. (please click here)  Later, she told the G.A. to change just one part of the fracking legislation and she would sign it.   But the G.A. would not make the change, and Perdue vetoed the bill—only to have the G.A. override her veto when Rep. Becky Carney (D-102), a long time veteran of the Assembly “accidentally” hit the wrong button and voted to override the veto contrary to her stated position.  After 10 years in the Assembly she could notBecky Carney-green or red button remember which button to hit.  After hundreds of votes, she forgot what the red and green buttons were for.  Hmmm.  Seems her campaign was overwhelmingly funded by corporations rather than her constituents…so who was really her constituency?  (You can read more about this by clicking here and here)

A procedural maneuver by Paul Stam (R-ALEC) prevented her from changing her vote.

The fracking bill—SB 820–reversed state laws from back in 1945 which prohibited horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, the two main components of producing natural gas from prehistoric shale rock formations.
NC fracking locationsBear in mind that when this legislation was first presented, it was only hours after the U.S. Geological Survey released its findings that instead of the 40 year supply of natural gas available via fracking which had been estimated by State geologists, there was only 5.6 years of availability based on 2010 NC electricity use.  That’s on estimated reserves of 1.7 trillion cu ft in the entire Deep River Basin as opposed the recently downgraded estimates of the reserves at Marcellus Shale of only 410 trillion cu ft. (please click here to see the USGS Survey of Natural Gas Reserves in NC)  But why quibble about numbers as long as there was corporate profit to be made.

Advancing to today, with an ex-Duke Energy Governor as part of a supermajority in Raleigh, SB 76 has passed committee and is headed for a fullNorth Carolina General Assembly vote of the Senate, presided over by Phil Berger (R-ALEC).  Consider if you will, that just 8 months after passing SB 820 “The Clean Energy and Economic Security Act” the Senate is now getting ready to push forward with SB 76 – “The Domestic Energy Jobs Act”, which negates the minimal protections put into effect per SB 820.

Here are the changes to SB 820 brought by this new legislation.  It will, (among other problems):

            (1) Allow the issuance of drilling permits starting on 3/1/15–regardless of whether  or not the regulations have been finalized and approved;

            (2) Eliminate two seats, including the state geologist, from the N.C. Mining & Energy Commission (MEC);

            (3) Allow deep injection of flowback water into wells for permanent disposal.  (Flowback is a mixture of chemicals and fluids used during fracking, mixed with underground brine and naturally occurring compounds that flush out of  the ground after a gas well is fracked.) The DENR study which last year  concluded that fracking could be done safely with the right safeguards in place.  But it also cautioned that North Carolina’s geology is not suitable for re-injecting tainted water. So our experts, our public serving state     legislators, are willing to go forward with controversial fracking, giving us their own layman expert opinions that those whose seats they eliminated cannot give.  Don’t worry. Be happy.  It’s only going to last for a few years anyways.

            (4) Prohibit local governments from taxing energy exploration and drilling;

             (5) Require state royalties from offshore energy development to go into a $50 million emergency fund for cleanup of oil spills;

            (6) Allow state-licensed hospitals to use emergency dual-fuel generators that run on natural gas and liquid fuel;

            (7) Encourage the governor to join South Carolina and Virginia to develop a regional strategy for offshore energy exploration;

            (8)  DENR would require environmental regulators to promote business opportunities for energy companies by creating an Energy Jobs Council

It also turns out that our General Assembly, together with the Mining and Energy Commission [MEC] which it created, both think that it is necessary and perfectly fair to force landowners to let the oil companies

              (9) Drill beneath their lands:

            (10) Lay pipeline across their lands;

            (11) Build roads across their lands.

Again it is important to note that these 11 items – and more – are being implemented despite the fact that oil industry geologists do not think that there is much natural gas to be extracted; only a tiny fraction of what’s available and already being extracted in Pennsylvania, Texas, Oklahoma, Montana, West Virginia, etc.

Isn’t it just great that our democratically elected officials are doing so much to help maximize the short term profit of the oil and gas industry?   We have to wonder if it ever occurred to those we elected to public service that they are abrogating their responsibility to be serious stewards of the environment, to protect our water, our air and ensure we have safe communities in which to live and raise our families?

Who do our politicians work for?  They are supposed to work for their constituents, and their constituents are not corporations who cannot vote.  Then again, as you can see here, this is on the agenda Americans For Prosperityfor Americans For Prosperity (AFP) – the Tea Party – funded by David Koch and Art Pope among others, so do you really have to ask who?   But We, The People, should expect them to work for us as is their legal responsibility.  But instead they take the corporate money and work for them.  Thank you Citizens United.