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New Senate Bill Loosens some Protections, Improves Others and Avoids Many

Filed Thursday afternoon, Senate Bill 786 seems designed to create an appearance of responding to some constituents’ concerns, but runs roughshod over others and is silent on several critical issues!  This bill could start to move early next week, so watch for alerts and prepare to weigh in with your Senators soon. 

From Fayetteville Observer: N.C. bill tightens some rules for fracking, loosens others

Here’s a summary of what the bill does, so you can prepare to act next week! To find who represents you, click here to use county, zip code or district information.

Protections Weakened:

  • Baseline testing was to be carried out for all water supply wells up to 5,000 feet from a drilling site, according to Senate Bill 820, passed in 2012. This bill slashed that radius to 2,640 feet (1/2 mile), along with the radius of “presumed liability.”
  • Restrictions on local government protections further tightened. Now any local ordinance that directly bans or indirectly restricts fracking can be pre-empted, and it will be the MEC, rather than a court, that rules on local ordinances!

Protections strengthened:

  • S786 would leave trade secret information in the hands of the State Geologist and make it available on an emergency basis to emergency management officials and health providers, BUT it makes trade secret disclosure a felony, requiring jail time, which we think no other state does!
  • There’s now a requirement for companies to submit information about their compliance history and a permit can be denied for a “bad actor.”

Key concerns the bill does nothing about:

  • Forced pooling.  Because this is SO controversial, especially in an election year, it looks like it’ll be left ‘til next year. Allowed since a 1945 law, forced pooling is a threat to the rights of small landowners and renters and should be prohibited!
  • Wastewater disposal.  There is no safe way to dispose of the millions of gallons of toxic fracking wastewater, but the bill doesn’t prohibit surface discharge, or require new standards.
  • Air emissions. Senate Bill 820 told regulators to develop rules to control toxic air emissions from fracking.  They haven’t, and this has caused many of the most serious health problems.
  • Long term contamination.  Nothing in bill would provide a remedy for folks whose health or property are destroyed by long-term contamination that shows up years after drilling is over.
  • Gathering lines.  The lines that move gas from wells to processing facilities are poorly regulated, and their construction may threaten property rights.

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