The state Mining and Energy Commission wrote the safety rules for fracking in North Carolina. Unfortunately, the commission’s work on shale gas drilling wasn’t preceded by more effective boring into the commission members’ potential conflicts of interest.
A review by the State Ethics Commission flagged 12 of the commission’s 14 members for a potential conflict. That alert comes too late, however. The commission has already completed its appointed task and forwarded 124 proposed fracking rules to the Rules Review Commission. Assuming no objections, the proposed rules will go to the General Assembly for adoption, and the commission will be dissolved July 31. A new panel, the Oil and Gas Commission, will oversee fracking operations that could begin in 2015.
Before North Carolinians can even start to worry about fracking tainting the environment, they’re left to wonder whether business conflicts tainted the fracking rules. This awkward development isn’t the fault of the commission members. They submitted disclosure forms to the State Ethics Commission, but incredibly the ethics panel didn’t deliver its vetting until after the MEC’s work was done.
Perry Newson, the State Ethics Commission’s executive director, said his staff was busy with thousands of other evaluations. Perhaps, but it’s hard to think what trumps the ethics review of a commission making fracking rules amid sharp disagreements between environmentalists and the energy industry.