Fracking and film incentives drew much attention as the North Carolina General Assembly’s short session convened early this month.
State lawmakers voted to override Gov. Bev Perdue’s veto of Senate Bill 820, which authorizes horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, for oil and gas exploration but bans the issuance of such permits pending legislative action.
Lawmakers from New Hanover County were among those who supported the override, a move that for Democrat Rep. Susi Hamilton drew criticism from the North Carolina League of Conservation Voters. The group rescinded a Rising Star honor it recently had awarded Hamilton last month.
Hamilton said her vote was not to support fracking but to regulate it, and that a multiple disciplinary board would develop regulations and restrictions the General Assembly must approve before the Department of Environment and Natural Resources would issue permits.
"This was a vote to protect the small rural communities of the state," Hamilton released in a recent emailed statement. "Protecting everyone, including our economically disadvantaged and minority citizens from hurtful actions is a huge priority for me. Because of my vote, we now have a voice in the discussion."
League members have not said they are dead set against fracking, but they want to take a slow, scientific approach, Dan Crawford, the league’s director of governmental relations, said Thursday, July 5, adding the bill would fast track it with a 2014 deadline to complete reports.
"It creates an oil and gas commission that’s heavily loaded with industry experts to make the decisions," Crawford said. "We think that’s a penny wise and pound foolish way to proceed on something that could have such a lasting effect to the landscape of our state."
Forced pooling was a main concern with Crawford, as well as the process of water being laced with chemicals and injected into the ground.
Roxanne Kirtright, a concerned citizen from Kure Beach, organized a fracking protest scheduled for July 12 called Frack No!, in Wilmington at College and Oleander roads.
"It’s a good place to see a lot of cars going back and forth at rush hour and just having people think about it, think about fracking, and see if there’s something we can do maybe still to stop fracking in North Carolina," Kirtright said Monday, July 9.
Kirtright admitted she had not read the bill but believed the dangers she has heard about it are a red flag and that other types of energy could be pursued, including solar and wind power. Kirtright said she became concerned with fracking after seeing videos of contaminated water and the documentary, "Gasland."
A Facebook page with the message N.C. Says No To Fracking! mentioned the protest and stated, "People of southeastern North Carolina are coming together to show our state ‘representatives’ that we do not accept their offer to allow fracking in the state of N.C."
Sen. Thom Goolsby, R-New Hanover, one of the bill’s co-sponsors, noted a moratorium was in effect.
"Nobody’s going to be doing anything until all the studies are completed and we have designed a cutting-edge plan for being able to protect the environment and possibly — and I say possibly — do this," Goolsby said Monday,
July 9. "Nothing’s written in stone."
Lawmakers want public feedback, Goolsby added.
"I want people to protest for it, against it; I want scientists to come out and geologists; I want to hear everything," Goolsby said.
Perdue’s office released a statement after the veto override with concerns about ensuring adequate protections for drinking water, landowners and the health and safety of state residents.
Local lawmakers helped pass a one-year extension for film tax credit incentives, to 2015, by adding it to Senate Bill 847, a technical corrections bill. That could mean $60 million if productions take place.
"Film incentives was the big deal," Rep. Danny McComas, R-New Hanover, said July 5, but also noted, "If there’s no expenditure, if there’s no filming, there’s no payments."
Film industry spending has jumped since the current 25-percent tax credit incentive took place in 2011, Hamilton said in her statement.
"The people who work in this industry, and the thousands of businesses across the state that they spend money with, need this trend to continue," Hamilton said.