Update: The Senate approved the House changes late Thursday. Senate Bill 786 is now on Governor Pat McCrory's desk awaiting a signature.
North Carolina is one step closer to allowing hydraulic fracturing in the state.
Late yesterday afternoon, the House passed its version of the Energy Modernization Act, which lifts the moratorium on the practice known as “fracking”.
The long and heated debate on the House floor ranged from complaints about the timing of the vote – to protecting private property rights -- to labeling the chemical mix used by gas companies as public information.
As written, Senate Bill 786 allows some version of forced pooling – although details are subject to further study. Forced or compulsory pooling allows the state to require a dissenting property owner to submit to fracking if a majority of surrounding landowners agree to it.
Opponents of forced pooling say it’s a property rights issue comparable to granting eminent domain to for-profit companies. Democratic Representative Rick Glazier is one of those opponents.
"No one should leave this floor with a doubt that as a result of the failure of this amendment that there will be forced pooling in this state. Property rights will have changed, and in fact we will end up with landowners being forced to give away, effectively, their right to control their property as a result of this. And we do so only for the greed of a few companies in this regard."
Republican Paul Stam says forced pooling actually protects the rights of all property owners.
"What forced pooling does is it allows, because of the pressure from the extraction of gas on person A’s property, the gas moves from person A's property from person B. That is no longer the property of the owner of B because it's not under the land anymore. But what forced pooling does is to give B some of the money from it. So it's an advantage to the person who is force-pooled."
The bill, passed by a 64-50 vote, now goes to the Senate for agreement.
Representatives Rick Catlin and Susi Hamilton voted against the bill. Reps. Ted Davis and Frank Iler voted in favor of it.