by Billy Ball
An environmental nonprofit and three North Carolina residents living in possible fracking destinations are legally challenging the authority of the appointed board that drafted the state's drilling rules.
The complaint, which was filed Friday in Wake County Superior Court, comes from Clean Water for N.C., a group that has lobbied to ban fracking in North Carolina for several years. The legal challenge contends that the N.C. General Assembly violated the state constitution in giving the appointed N.C. Mining and Energy Commission the authority to pre-empt local ordinances in crafting fracking regulations.
A number of local government bodies passed resolutions or ordinances opposing drilling within their counties, but state law—as recommended by the mining commission—holds that no local ordinances would be able to block fracking.
"We've been told to accept drilling and fracking 650 feet from our homes, drinking water wells and schools, and 200 feet from our streams," said Hope Taylor, executive director of Clean Water for N.C. "If local governments decide democratically to enact protections that their citizens need, the MEC shouldn't be able to toss them out."
The plaintiffs in the suit, in addition to Clean Water for N.C., are Martha Girolami, a Chatham County resident; Anna Baucom, chairwoman of the Anson County Board of Commissioners; and Darryl Moss, mayor of the Granville County city of Creedmoor. Creedmoor, Anson County and Chatham County have passed anti-fracking resolutions or ordinances.
The suit names the state, the mining commission and the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) as defendants.
The legal challenge follows another suit filed last November by Gov. Pat McCrory and two of his predecessors, which argued that lawmakers overstepped their authority in designing the appointment process for a newly-created panel that would recommend changes to the law following last year's coal ash spill in the Dan River.
The governor also cited the Mining and Energy Commission as an example of legislators stripping powers reserved for the executive branch when they gave themselves the power to appoint the majority of the boards' members.
More on this as it develops in the Indy.