Lawmakers in the North Carolina General Assembly ratified two bills calling for a comprehensive study of hydraulic fracturing (hydrofracking). Both bills now await the signature of Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue.

The first bill, H242, was unanimously ratified by the state House of Representatives on Friday by a 107-0 vote. It directs the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to conduct a review of oil and gas exploration in the state, and to also look at where hydrofracking may occur. The DENR is to report its findings and make recommendations by May 1, 2012.

“It’s a first step in a long process to move us toward energy independence,” Rep. Mitch Gillespie (R-Marion), one of H242’s sponsors, told NGI’s Shale Daily on Monday. “It’s a comprehensive bill looking at all the issues out there. I’m looking forward to getting everybody up and going, to start researching this and see what we need to do to make sure we don’t have the same kind of problems that have been happening in other states. I think we can learn from other people’s mistakes.”

Meanwhile, a second bill — S709, alternatively known as the Energy Jobs Act — was ratified 69-42 by the House on Saturday. That bill also calls for a hydrofracking study, and would allow offshore natural gas drilling and create an offshore energy compact with neighboring Virginia and South Carolina (see Shale Daily, April 28).

“H242 and S709 both go hand in hand with either other,” Gillespie said, adding that lawmakers had appropriated $100,000 toward each bill. “We can move forward and have a very good plan for North Carolina that is safe for the environment, and at the same time we will be able to extract this natural resource.”

Mark Johnson, a spokesman for Perdue, told NGI’s Shale Daily that the governor’s office currently had no comment on either H242 or S709.

“The bills are being reviewed,” Johnson said Monday. “She’s got more than 200 on her desk that she has to deal with in 10 days. They’ll be coming pretty fast and furious.”

Gillespie said he would like to see the General Assembly appropriate an additional $2 million in 2013 so the state geologist could conduct exploratory drilling into the state’s shale formations, including the Cumnock Formation. He added that it could be four years until drilling occurs (see Shale Daily, June 14).

Researchers from the North Carolina Geological Survey and the U.S. Geological Survey are currently studying how much shale gas may be recoverable from the Cumnock, an 800-foot interval of organic-rich black shale under 25,000 acres in Lee and Chatham counties at depths of less than 3,000 feet (see Daily GPI, Aug. 27, 2010).

Asked if he thought Perdue would sign the bill, Gillespie said, “I would assume she would sign it. I don’t know any reason that she wouldn’t.”

If Perdue does sign H242, North Carolina would join other entities currently studying hydrofracking, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), New York, Maryland and Quebec (see Shale Daily, June 7; June 1; March 10; Feb. 22).