Republican Louis Harmati is challenging Democratic Representative Susi Hamilton for the seat in House District 18. The two candidates came together last night in the WHQR Gallery. As WHQR’s Rachel Lewis Hilburn reports, the predictably divisive issue of fracking turned out to be yet another area of near-agreement between candidates.
The question about fracking came from WECT’s Jon Evans. Should North Carolina embrace fracking as a good source of energy and jobs? Republican Louis Harmati says the state should look at it, study it, but not wait so long that other states corner the market and North Carolina loses out.
“Now some environmental people have said that there might be problems with the groundwater contamination, risk to air quality, and surface contamination from spills and flow-back, but I haven’t seen any evidence of that nature yet. And I’m sure if those things develop, then the state environmental protection agency will look into that and we as a Legislature will maybe change our minds on it.”
During the last session of the General Assembly, Representative Susi Hamilton voted to override Governor Bev Perdue's veto of a bill that would allow fracking the state. The move shocked Hamilton’s environmental supporters. Hamilton explained it as a part of a deal she brokered with Republicans to keep film incentives for the region.
During last night’s forum, Representative Hamilton called natural gas a clean energy source, pointed to WAVE Transit’s plans for a natural gas-powered fleet of vehicles, and praised Progress Energy’s Sutton Steam plant for switching from coal to natural gas – which – once online – says Hamilton -- would reduce air emissions by 60 percent.
“The issue is can natural gas be extracted safely from the earth? Not just in North Carolina where we have a very limited supply, I might add, but can it be done safely nationally? And if it can, there’ll be substantial potential for us to have energy independence in this country while we are continuing to pursue and make economical solar and wind.”