If there was any clamor for North Carolina to join the fracking parade, and sooner rather than later, it was coming from 1) energy companies that want to sew up natural gas drilling rights, 2) some landowners and business folks with visions of dollar signs and 3) Republican politicians whose heartstrings still vibrate to the refrain of Drill, baby, drill!
The apparent consensus among most everybody else? Not here. Not now.
Looking at the politics, and looking at the science, its no wonder that Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue opted to veto the bill that would authorize the drilling method called hydraulic fracturing and move North Carolina toward the brave new world of shale gas extraction.
Nor was it any surprise when the Republican-controlled state Senate, where support for fracking has been strong, voted yesterday to override the veto. That left the matter to be decided in the House, also with a GOP majority but with many members queasy about prying the lid from the Pandoras box that the fracking bill represents.
Perdue had signaled she could go along with fracking if proper safeguards were in place. The assumption was that North Carolina could learn from the experience of other states such as Pennsylvania, where intensive fracking has been blamed for groundwater pollution and other kinds of environmental damage.
But the governors judgment in the end was that the bills safeguards didnt go far enough to alleviate risks. It couldnt have helped that a new commission with a strong industry contingent would be given oversight of fracking rules.
A key consideration is that the states supplies of natural gas trapped in shale formations mainly in Lee, Chatham and Moore counties are thought to be modest at best. With prices also low, its been hard to imagine a drilling stampede. The veto was a prudent move to let the technology and the economics ripen before North Carolina takes the plunge.