Judge temporarily halts fracking permitting in North Carolina | News

Judge temporarily halts fracking permitting in North Carolina

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Wake County Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens has ordered North Carolina to cease accepting or processing fracking permits, pending an ongoing legal battle over the constitutionality of the state's appointed Mining and Energy Commission (MEC).

The Southern Environmental Law Center, a nonprofit that specializes in legal work on environmental issues, announced the injunction Wednesday morning. The legal move effectively reinstated North Carolina's drilling moratorium, which lawmakers voted to lift last year.

The decision stemmed from a suit brought by the Haw River Assembly in Chatham County and one Lee County landowner. Lawyers for the two parties used Gov. Pat McCrory's ongoing legal challenge to argue that fracking should be stayed until the question of MEC's constitutionality is settled. The groups also say that any regulations written by the MEC should be declared "null and void."

Last year, McCrory and two former governors argued in court that legislators violated the state's constitution by giving themselves the authority to appoint a majority of the members on newly-created boards such as the MEC and the Coal Ash Commission.

A three-judge panel of Superior Court judges sided with McCrory in March, but the state's Supreme Court is expected to hear an appeal of that decision this summer.

"The citizens of North Carolina deserve to have a lawful, accountable and representative agency to put in place strong protections that safeguard our communities and water supplies from the risks and harms of fracking," said Elaine Chiosso, executive director of the Haw River Assembly, in a statement.

The injunction comes two weeks after the environmental group Clean Water for N.C. filed a separate legal challenge to the MEC's authority, claiming lawmakers also violated the constitution by giving the board the power to overrule any local bans or regulations on drilling.

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