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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Energy Bills Put 'Fracking' On Different Tracks

- Energy Bills Put 'Fracking' On Different Tracks

Tuesday, May 31, 2011
The News & Observer, Raleigh, N.C.
by John Murawski & Rob Christensen

Two energy-related bills making their way through the legislature underscore the excitement and the anxiety that energy exploration engenders in this state.

Their official titles notwithstanding, one bill might well be called the Go Slow bill and the other the Hurry Up bill.

A House bill focusing on natural gas, HB 242, directs the state to spend $100,000 to study the effect of exploring natural gas trapped in prehistoric shale formations underground, centered in Lee County.

This bill, sponsored by Reps. Mike Stone, a Republican from Sanford, and Mitch Gillespie, a Republican from Marion, takes a cautious tone with regard to the controversial horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (or "fracking") technologies used to gain access to the natural gas. The practices are not legal in this state and would require approval by the General Assembly.

The bill was introduced March 7. On Thursday, it was approved by the Finance Committee and sent to the Appropriations Committee. If it is approved by the House, it would set the stage for a 2013 bill that would regulate the industry.

There's no such waiting with the Senate's fracking bill. The title of the bill says it all: Energy Jobs Act. Sponsored by Rep. Bob Rucho, a Republican from Matthews, SB709 encourages offshore oil and gas exploration, inland shale gas exploration and domestic energy production in general to achieve energy independence. It also would allow fracking to start much sooner in the state.

The bill would also create an Energy Jobs Council "to protect the economy of the State, promote job creation and expand business and industry opportunities."

The council would also come up with emergency plans to deal with energy shortages in this state.

The legislation was introduced April 19 and by May 10 had passed the Senate, but has not had a vote in the House.

Burr likes agency mergers

Republican Sen. Richard Burr has introduced a bill to merge the departments of Labor and Commerce into a new Department of Commerce and the Workforce.

Burr said the move would save money and end duplication and would help the country's economic policies by ensuring a consistent approach.

"The amount of money wasted annually on duplicative programs within the federal government is staggering," Burr said in a statement.

"In his State of the Union address this year," Burr said, "the president proposed merging and consolidating federal agencies and this bill advances that proposal. This common-sense approach reduces duplication by combing offices with similar functions within these two agencies and would streamline our approach to comprehensive policy."

Labor was part of the Department of Commerce until President William Howard Taft made it a separate Cabinet agency in 1913. President Lyndon Johnson considered combining the two in the 1960s.

This month, Burr introduced a bill that would combine the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Copyright (c) 2011, The News & Observer, Raleigh, N.C.

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1 comment:

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