North Carolina is one step closer to to being a fracking state.
After debate on the House floor that lasted nearly two hours this afternoon, during which Democrats submitted amendments to the bill that were either defeated or tabled (so there would be no voting record), the House approved S786, the Energy Modernization Act.
It clears the way for oil and gas exploration.
Around 50 protesters and several lawmakers rallied in front of the Legislative building before the session, to speak against the fracking bill which sped through the Senate and two House Committees before it went to the House floor Wednesday.
Armed with small signs per the new General Assembly protest rules, fracking opponents sent silent messages to lawmakers from behind the glass windows overlooking the House chamber.
The protesters were angry about how quickly the bill has moved through the Legislature and the lack of public input that was allowed during the process. They fear for the environment, mourn the loss of local government control, and recalled what one protester said was the worst contaminated drinking water incident in the nation, at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, where hundreds of people died or became ill from drinking contaminated water for more than a decade.
Several Democratic Representatives spoke to the crowd before they went into session.
They said a promise made on the House floor not to lift the state's fracking moratorium before the practice was determined to be safe was going to be broken. The bill preempts a package of rules related to fracking that the state's Mining and Energy Commission will unveil in October.
Rep. Rieves, D-Chatham and Lee Counties, said residents in his district— already targeted for drilling— want a say in what's going on.
"There is great concern that this bill is moving too fast, going too far and doing too much," Rieves said.
Rep. Susi Hamilton, D-New Hanover, told the crowd to wait "Remember in November," urging people to vote out lawmakers who she says are attacking sustainable industries in North Carolina.
But the protesters' efforts today were in vain, a conclusion that seemed foregone from the vrery beginning.
The North Carolina Conservation Network provides a good summary of what opponents say are problems with the bill here