[Expired Action Alert]
June 2014 – Thank you for taking action last week against SB 786, also known as the Energy Modernization Act. Unfortunately, the General Assembly voted to fast-track fracking.
Wednesday this week, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory signed SB 786 into law. Included in S786 is a provision that pre-approves Mining and Energy Commission (MEC) rules. While permits for drilling will not be issued until rules are complete, passage of S786 approves the MEC rules before they are complete.
Lee County Representative Mike Stone offered an amendment to include the pre-approval provision. As a result of Rep. Stone’s amendment, the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources and MEC will be able to issue permits as soon as spring of 2015.
Not only does SB 786 break a promise made by the General Assembly in 2012, it endangers North Carolina by taking further reckless steps and conspicuously fails to address additional needed protections.
Details about SB 786
Weakened Landowner Protections
- Companies are now liable for water contamination within a one-half mile radius around a well. The provision nearly lets companies off the hook, reducing the area where they will be presumed responsible for contamination by more than 70% from prior legal liability.
- The burden of scheduling and conducting water testing is shifted from the industry onto the landowner.
Marginally Improved Protections
- Fracking chemical mixtures protected by trade secret law must now be disclosed to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. By eliminating a third party, emergency response times will likely be reduced.
- Companies are required to give 30-day notice before subsurface entry, which ensures landowners know when development begins under their property.
What the Bill Doesn’t Address
Surface Use Agreements
- Currently, mineral rights owners have the right to access and develop their minerals through the surface property, even if they do not own the surface. The bill does not require surface use agreements before any land disturbing activities can begin. Requiring surface use agreements would give the surface owner the right to say no.
- The bill does nothing to protect landowners from forced pooling, also known as compulsory pooling. Current law allows companies to force landowners into a lease if enough of their neighbors leased voluntarily. The practice is unfair and completely unnecessary when using unconventional methods of drilling for natural gas. Legislators should act to prevent the forced pooling of any landowner in North Carolina.
You can find out how your North Carolina House member voted here and Senate member voted here.
If your members voted for SB 786, tell them you are disappointed in their reckless decision to fast-track hydraulic fracturing.
If your members opposed SB 786, thank them for putting North Carolinians’ interests before the interests of the oil and gas industry.
Thank you for all the action you have already taken to protect North Carolina from the worst impacts related to fracking.
But, our work is not done.
Later this summer, the MEC will hold public hearings on the proposed rules. Stay tuned for updates from RAFI about how to make your voice heard during the MEC public hearings.