Republicans in the North Carolina General Assembly were able to override Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue’s veto of a bill to legalize hydraulic fracturing (fracking) on Monday after a voting error by a Democratic lawmaker.
Rep. Becky Carney (D-Mecklenburg), an opponent of fracking, pushed the wrong button during a vote at 11:08 p.m. and accidentally sided with Republicans to override Perdue’s veto of SB 820. Carney’s mistake gave Republicans the three-fifths majority needed for the override, with a final tally of 71-47. Earlier in the evening, the Senate also voted in favor of an override, 29-13.
The override was a stinging rebuke for Perdue, who had just vetoed the bill on Sunday (see Shale Daily, July 3).
“It’s disappointing that the leaders in the General Assembly would allow fracking without ensuring that adequate protections will be in place for drinking water, landowners, county and municipal governments, and the health and the safety of families in North Carolina,” Perdue said Tuesday. “I hope the General Assembly will revisit this issue and strengthen the safeguards before fracking begins.”
Marty Durbin, executive vice president for the American Petroleum Institute, commended the General Assembly for enacting a law that allows fracking to move forward.
“After a commendable state study of shale energy issues, active public input and thorough deliberation, North Carolina has set in motion a process that will lead to the creation of high-paying jobs and a better energy future for the state,” Durbin said Tuesday. “Safe and responsible development of natural gas will provide ample supplies of energy for North Carolina families while boosting job growth and generating revenue for the government.”
SB 820, also known as the Clean Energy and Economic Security Act, calls for creating a nine-member oil and gas board and would establish a moratorium on fracking until mid-2014, to allow the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to craft an appropriate regulatory framework.
According to media reports, after the vote Carney said, “It was a huge mistake. I take full responsibility.” She also reportedly wept at her desk and was consoled by fellow Democrats, who took issue with a parliamentary move by Rep. Paul Stam (R-Wake) that prevented her from changing her vote.
Environmental groups were outraged. “Adopting sweeping fracking policy without adequate study is bad enough,” said Elizabeth Ouzts, Environment North Carolina state director. “Doing so with a tricky parliamentary maneuver and an accidental vote is shameful.”
SB 820 passed the Senate on June 6 and the House of Representatives on June 14, mostly along party lines (see Shale Daily, June 18; June 11). Perdue had gone on record as a supporter of fracking but was seeking additional protections for drinking water, landowners and local governments.
Despite her reservations, Perdue had issued an executive order calling on various state agencies to organize a work group to study fracking and make regulatory recommendations (see Shale Daily, May 23). Perdue’s order followed separate reports by DENR and the State Review of Oil and Natural Gas Environmental Regulations Inc. (see Shale Daily, March 26; March 2). Respectively, those reports said fracking could be done safely but that current state regulations were inadequate.
Last year Perdue vetoed another energy bill — SB 709, also known as the Energy Jobs Act — on her contention that it was unconstitutional for her to enter into an offshore energy compact with neighboring Virginia and South Carolina (see Shale Daily, Oct. 12, 2011; June 22, 2011). The Senate overrode her veto on July 13, 2011, but the House has not been successful in following suit, withdrawing votes to attempt an override on May 24 and June 14 of this year.
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