State Net Capitol Journal Legislative Updates: Fracking Remains a Hot Topic in Many States

State Net Capitol Journal Legislative Updates: Fracking Remains a Hot Topic in Many States

FRACKING REMAINS A HOT TOPIC IN MANY STATES: The controversial process of hydraulic fracturing, also known as "fracking," has boiled over in numerous statehouses this year. The battle has often come down along party lines, with Republicans heavily supporting measures allowing the process over its potential economic benefits for strapped state and local economies, while Democrats have urged greater caution and stricter regulation to ensure potential environmental hazards are addressed before states plunge forward. 

Environmental groups have also long opposed fracking, which involves injecting chemically treated water deep into the ground to break up shale deposits containing oil and natural gas. Opponents say wastewater from the process can leak into and contaminate local groundwater supplies. Even if the chemically-treated water does not leak, it needs to be treated before it can be used again, which creates storage and disposal issues. There has also been concern over how much water the process uses (up to 5 million gallons per well) and the possibility that it might have contributed to past earthquake activity in California and more recent seismic events in Ohio and Oklahoma. 

According to State Net, at least 174 bills have been introduced this year that address some aspect of fracking regulation. Recent activity has included: North Carolina lawmakers overriding Gov. Bev Perdue's (D) veto of a bill (SB 820) that legalized fracking in her state; Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) signing a measure (SB 315) establishing a regulatory framework for the process; the California Senate rejecting a measure (SB 1054) that would have forced drillers to notify property owners before they could use hydraulic fracturing on or near their land; New Jersey lawmakers endorsing AB 575, which would bar the storage, treatment or discharge of fracking wastewater in the Garden State (the bill is with Gov. Christie); and a surprise announcement from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) that his administration would support legalizing fracking in a handful of Empire State counties that border Pennsylvania. 

OH FRACK! As mistakes go, this was big. With the clock near midnight, North Carolina lawmakers were pushing to override Gov. Bev Perdue's veto of SB 820, a bill that would legalize hydraulic fracturing, a.k.a. "fracking" in the Tar Heel State. With ruling Republicans still unsure they had the support, House Speaker Thom Tillis called for a vote. Lawmakers pushed their buttons and, to everyone's surprise, the override was successful by a single vote. None were more shocked than Democratic Rep. Becky Carney, who, as the Greensboro News-Record reports, had voted against SB 820 and was definitely not in favor of the override. The board, however, showed Carney had voted with Republicans, and was in fact the deciding vote. Realizing she had hit the wrong button, Carney tried to change her vote but was denied. Reeps quickly called a cloture vote, sealing the override. A mortified Carney acknowledged her mistake, saying she simply "pushed the green button instead of the red button." 

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