Under the Dome

NC Senate gives tentative OK to fracking bill

Without much debate, the N.C. Senate voted 37-11 Thursday morning to approve a fast-moving bill involving fracking, though it postponed a final vote on the measure until next week.

Part of an otherwise uncontroversial environmental bill, the fracking provision would release the N.C. Environmental Management Commission from having to write regulations governing toxic air emissions caused by fracking operations. Instead, the commission could rule that existing state and federal regulations are sufficient.

“Currently there are 443 air toxic rules that are on the books, with federal and state, so that should take care of that issue,” said Sen. Andrew Brock, a Mocksville Republican.

The House approved the measure Wednesday despite complaints from Democrats that it was moving too fast with little public notice. The Senate took up the bill in an 8 a.m. committee meeting Thursday and had a full vote an hour later.

Republicans say the speed is needed because of a March 17 deadline. That when North Carolina’s fracking moratorium is expected to be lifted.

The rapid movement drew no complaints from Democrats in the Senate, and one even spoke in favor of the bill.

“I know there’s some concern in the environmental community that this will weaken the commitment to have the strongest environmental protections that we can have,” said Sen. Angela Bryant, a Rocky Mount Democrat. “My understanding is that additional rulemaking, should it be deemed necessary, can be made. There would be a significant opposition if we were in any way weakening regulations.”

While the House vote was largely along party lines, Bryant was joined by five other Democrats in voting yes. One Republican, Sen. Tamara Barringer of Cary, voted no.

Still, the Senate delayed the final vote on the bill until next week. Sen. Tom Apodaca, a Hendersonville Republican and the rules chairman, called for the delay to allow senators to “give it a good thorough looking” over the weekend.