Fracking Permits Temporarily Halted in North Carolina
A North Carolina Superior Court decision earlier this month suspends drilling permits for hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," until a case filed by Republican Governor Pat McCrory is resolved. The pending Supreme Court decision will determine whether appointments to the state Mining and Energy Commission are valid. The newly-formed Commission has a key role in the fracking permit process, which includes issuing sub-surface mineral rights to applicants before they can seek drilling permits from the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
A separate case filed by the Haw River Assembly is also pending, which involves similar legal questions as the Supreme Court case. At issue is whether the North Carolina state legislature overstepped its role in 2012 by establishing the Mining and Energy Commission, then appointing eight of the 13 members. The governor appoints the remaining five members, and the key legal question is whether sufficient separation of legislative and executive powers is occurring.
The Commission began writing rules and regulations for fracking in 2012, and has received over 220,000 public comments. The prospect of introducing a new form of mining has generated intense public debate, which mainly boils down to job creation and economic development versus environmental safety, and whether ground water supplies can protected from chemical injections needed to extract natural gas from shale deposits
Governor McCrory signed fracking into law in 2014, which would have allowed the permitting process to begin this year, though the extent and location of natural gas deposits has been difficult to pinpoint. So far no drilling permit applications have been submitted.