A series of legislative proposals that would allow hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and enact several other changes to North Carolina's energy policies within two years have cleared an important hurdle and could come to a vote this summer.

The proposals, contained in a 64-page report submitted by Sen. Bob Rucho (R-Mecklenburg), passed the muster of the Legislative Research Commission on Wednesday. A staff member with Rucho's office told NGI's Shale Daily that the proposals would be written into bills and would then be submitted to the General Assembly for a vote.

Under Rucho's proposals, a new nine-member Oil and Gas Board would be created and given the authority -- concurrent with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) -- to create a regulatory program to govern fracking. But there would also be a moratorium on the practice until July 1, 2014.

Other proposals include:

Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue reportedly supports fracking, with certain caveats (see Shale Daily, March 19).

"If done safely, fracking can be part of a larger energy solution to create jobs and help lower costs," said Chris Mackey, Perdue's press secretary. "Before we permit anyone to 'frack' in North Carolina, however, we must hear from all sides, address all issues, and develop a robust set of rules. Governor Perdue has made clear that those rules must put every necessary precaution into place to protect our drinking water and safeguard the health and safety of every single North Carolinian. The rules must also protect the interests of landowners and address the needs of county and municipal governments."

Despite the governor's support for fracking, a spokesman who declined to be identified told NGI's Shale Daily on Thursday that she would probably not sign any bills formulated from Rucho's proposals if they reach her desk. The spokesman said Perdue would probably favor additional study on fracking first.

According to media reports, Rep. Mitch Gillespie (R-McDowell) is planning to introduce his own bill on fracking. The Gillespie measure would have environmental protections, but would not create an Oil and Gas Board and would require additional legislation from the General Assembly to actually authorize fracking.

The North Carolina Geological Survey believes that technically recoverable gas exists in the state's Sanford sub-basin (including Lee, Chatham and Moore counties in central North Carolina) and possibly the Dan River sub-basin (including Stokes and Rockingham counties in northern North Carolina).

The group State Review of Oil and Natural Gas Environmental Regulations Inc. recently concluded that DENR has experienced staff but is not adequately prepared to regulate oil and natural gas activities (see Shale Daily, March 2). Meanwhile, a handful of municipalities have enacted their own fracking laws (see Shale Daily, Jan. 9).