- Clean Energy and Economic Security Act
- Domestic Energy Policy
- Underground Injection Ban
- Fracking Contracts/Against Public Policy
- Sale of Children
- Senate’s Budget
Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” is a natural gas extraction process that uses high-pressure fluids to open up fractures in gas-bearing rock formations. This extraction method involves first drilling a gas well vertically and then drilling horizontally through gas-bearing shale rock to access natural gas. Fluids, typically composed of water, sand, and chemical additives, are then pumped into the geologic formations at high pressures to break apart the shale and liberate the methane gas it holds. The internal pressure of the geologic formation causes the injected fracturing fluids to rise to the surface where they may be stored in tanks or pits prior to processing. Recovered fracturing fluids are referred to as “flowback.” Disposal options for flowback include surface discharge or through underground injection. Flowback still contains the added chemicals, which may be difficult or impossible to remove from the water, and drilling companies do not even disclose the identities of all the chemicals.
To date, The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has conducted numerous studies on the fracking process. In November 2011, Congress requested the EPA to study the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water resources. The study examines the full cycle of water in hydraulic fracturing. This includes studying the acquisition of the water, the mixing of chemicals, and water in the post-fracturing stage. Many in the environmental and scientific communities believe that there haven’t been adequate studies of the health consequences from fracking or of the pollution which would result.
Both scientists and policy experts agree that the energy potential of shale gas is favorable, though a study just released by the U.S. Geological Survey shows far less potential in North Carolina than originally thought. Horizontal fracking is one of the newest energy extraction methods in the industry and is generally viewed as less expensive than other energy types. It is quickly becoming a widely used practice in the United States, especially within the Appalachian Mountain Region. Proponents argue that it provides economic opportunity and a somewhat stable energy source. Opponents note that the fracking process has resulted in many harmful consequences, including poisoned drinking water, widespread polluted air, human and animal deaths, vegetation eradication, and industrial disasters. Opponents in the U.S. also question the necessity of fracking instead of decreasing our dependence on fossil fuels.
For more information on concerns about fracking:
- A report from the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources
- “Why Not Frack?” by Bill McKibben
At the present, fracking is illegal in North Carolina. The Rural Life Committee of the NC Council of Churches supports the current ban on hydraulic fracturing. Last August the committee produced a statement detailing the potential effects of fracking on communities if allowed in NC. Among the potential concerns was that the practice would cause water contamination, negatively impact rural infrastructure and farmland, increase traffic, destabilize community development, pose unintended public health effects, and exploit rural North Carolinians. To read the full statement, visit, http://www.ncchurches.org/2011/08/rural-life-committee-supports-ban-on-fracking/. In addition, NC Interfaith Power & Light, a program of the NC Council of Churches, also supports maintaining current NC law, which bans fracking. To learn more about fracking and to take action, go to NC IPL’s Faith in Action page and scroll down to Take Action on Fracking Legislation.
The NC General Assembly is moving quickly to adopt legislation related to the approval and regulation of hydraulic fracturing. Last Wednesday, S 820, optimistically named the “Clean Energy and Economic Security Act,” passed the Senate and will be taken up in the House this week. If this legislation is of concern to you, don’t delay in contacting your representatives.
Introducers: Reps. Hager, Gillespie, K. Alexander, and R. Moore.
Sens. Rucho, Blake, Walters;
H 1054 was identical to S 820 as introduced. Elements of another bill, H 1064 (from Reps. Gillispie and Stone), have also been incorporated into S 820. This bill summary is of S 820 as it was passed by the Senate.
S 820 calls for the conversion of an already-existing Mining Commission into the Mining and Energy Commission. The Commission would have nine voting members, to be named by the Governor and the leaders of the House and Senate. Seven of the nine will be people from the mining, oil, or gas industries, with only two from “environmental conservation or mitigation.” In addition, five named positions in state government, including the chair of the Environmental Management Commission and the chair of the Commission on Public Health, would be represented, but as nonvoting members. The Commission will develop rules and regulations for exploration, extraction and production of natural energy resources, specifically through horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing. S 820 names many specific items to be regulated, removes existing statutory prohibitions on horizontal drilling and the injection of fracking fluids into the ground, and requires future approval by the General Assembly before the first drilling permits could be issued. The bill also contains requirements for information to be available to landowners regarding their rights in oil and gas leases.
Three additional bills related to energy policy and fracking have been introduced:
Introducers: Sens. Rucho, Rabon and Goolsby
This resolution, currently awaiting review in the Committee on Agriculture, calls for a national energy policy that supports the development of domestic energy sources. Particularly it calls for “reasonable” development of domestic energy sources, including offshore drilling. It advocates that the federal 2012-17 leasing plan be amended to include North Carolina’s federally managed waters and to accelerate resource exploration and development, and include revenue sharing provisions for those waters. Also included are several legislative opinions related to nuclear waste policy and a call for the federal government to establish recommended reforms for nuclear fuel disposal.
Introducer: Rep. Faison
This bill, currently in the Committee on the Environment, would prohibit the discharge or injection of fracking materials and wastewater into State owned or maintained water sources. This also includes deposits into the Atlantic Ocean or Pamlico Sound. It appropriates $50,000 to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to implement the act.
Introducer: Rep. Faison|
This bill, currently in the Committee on the Environment, would make it illegal to separate mineral rights and surface ownership on property sold or leased for purposes of fracking. It appropriates $25,000 to the Department of Justice to study the extent and nature of existing contracts that are declared void by the act. Applies to contracts or lease agreements recorded on or after October 1, 2012, and expires October 1, 2015.
S 910, which would make it a Class D felony (Class A being the most serious) to buy or sell a child, has been passed by the Senate and sent to the House. As part of an effort to crack down on human trafficking, the bill would also call on the state’s district attorneys to study additional measures related to the sale of children and make recommendations to the 2013 General Assembly.
The Senate has released its proposed budget for 2012-13. For a brief comparison of Senate and House budgets, see the News & Observer’s summary.
For a more detailed look at issues affecting children, see the report from Rob Thompson, executive director of the Covenant with NC’s Children, which follows immediately.
Dear Covenant Members,
Below I’ve listed the key changes from the House budget. You’ll note that most of these are changes in the wrong direction.
At the bottom of this email, I’ve pasted the press release that I sent out this morning. As always, let me know if you’ve got any questions.
Discretionary Cut: When combined with the expiration of the federal EduJobs money, the state has a K-12 shortfall of over $700 million. Unfortunately, the Senate restores just $74 million to the K-12 budget. The House restored approximately $336 million to the K-12 budget.
Education Overhaul: The budget includes $47 million to fund Sen. Berger’s overhaul of public schools. All of S795 [George’s note: S 795 contains the substantive provisions of the overhaul proposal] is included in the special provisions.
Smart Start: The Senate does not include $3.5 million in rural partnership assistance, but does include the House’s provisions on salary and private matching funds.
NC Pre-K: The Senate budget includes $11.3 million for 2,261 new slots. Note – this money does not show up on the HHS Committee Report; rather, it’s included in the special provisions and is part of Sen. Berger’s education reform.
The Senate budget does not include funding for the following programs:
- Safe Sleep
- ECU High-Risk Clinic
- March of Dimes Preconception Health Campaign
Smoking Prevention and Cessation:
The Senate Budget includes no funding for smoking prevention and cessation. $17.3 million was needed to maintain current programs.
The Senate budget includes neither the $10 million cut in Community Service funding nor the $18 million increase for local beds. Additionally, the Senate budget does not include $3.5 million for additional psychiatric beds at Broughton.
Covenant Press Release on Senate Budget
Senate slashes infant mortality prevention programs
Proposed budget draws ire from child advocates
RALEIGH, NC – The Senate’s proposed budget for 2012-13 would discontinue funding for all state-funded infant mortality prevention programs, according to the Covenant with North Carolina’s Children, a statewide children’s advocacy group.
“This is a terrible budget for North Carolina’s children,” stated Rob Thompson, Executive Director of the Covenant with North Carolina’s Children. “North Carolina has an abysmal history when it comes to infant mortality, but we’ve made substantial progress over the past two decades. Unfortunately, the Senate budget has the potential to undue all of that.”
The specific programs discontinued in the Senate budget were:
• The Safe Sleep program, which educates families, hospitals, child care providers and others about best practices to prevent SIDS.
• The ECU High Risk Maternity Clinic at Eastern Carolina University. This clinic serves women with high-risk pregnancies in 29 eastern counties. After funding cuts last year, the clinic has reduced staffing and services and has begun turning patients away. The cost of initial treatment for a baby born on the verge of viability is $290,000.
• The 17-Progesterone programs to prevent subsequent preterm births.
• March of Dimes Preconception Health Program
The Governor’s budget included all of these items and the House budget included all items with the exception of the Safe Sleep program.
The Senate budget falls short in other areas as well:
• It fails to renew funding for any youth tobacco prevention programs.
• It sustains deep cuts to K-12 schools, reinstating just one tenth of what’s needed to avoid deeper cuts.
• It fails to restore adequate funding to NC Pre-K.
 Cornell University Cooperative Extension. 2008. Gas Exploration and Leasing On Private Land: Tips and Guidance for New York Landowners.