This week I witnessed what the General Assembly would like for its constituents to believe is fair lawmaking. Instead, the House Environmental Committee’s swift passage of Senate Bill 820, otherwise misleadingly titled the Clean Energy and Economic Security Act, demonstrated an utter disregard for public participation and opinion.
The committee debate over bill, which would legalize hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in North Carolina for the first time, consisted of 45 minutes of legislator and legislative staff commentary and questions interspersed with statements from representatives of two state agencies. There were five members of the public scheduled to voice their opinions on the bill (four against and one for); however, none was given a chance to speak due to a time limit that was apparently so set in stone that it couldn’t be altered to allow for valuable remarks on an enormously important and controversial bill.
I have many reservations about the environmental implications of SB 820, and am extremely disconcerted by the General Assembly’s fast tracking of the legislation. What upset me today, though, was the House Committee’s shameful disrespect towards the citizens of North Carolina, whose voices should be always be considered the most important.