As local governments across North Carolina continue to take action to protect their residents and resources from potential hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”), the right to enact local ordinances has become a focal point in the ongoing debate about future natural gas extraction in the state. In recent weeks, the Counties of Stokes, Rockingham and Lee, as well as the towns of Stoneville and Walnut Cove, have joined Anson and Chatham Counties and the cities of Creedmoor and Bakersville in passing local ordinances that temporarily prevent fracking activities from occurring in their jurisdictions.
In November, Clean Water for North Carolina and some of our members, including two local elected officials, sued the State of North Carolina, the NC Department of Environmental Quality and the NC Oil and Gas Commission. We’re challenging the General Assembly’s granting of power to politically-appointed, regulatory Commissioners to block–or preempt–local government ordinances regulating oil and gas-related development, as well as the way in which the General Assembly stripped local governments of their right to regulate oil and gas development during the final hours of the 2015 legislative session.
At that time, new language was introduced into a technical corrections bill and then approved just minutes before the session ended, with little or no notice to voting legislators and the public about the contents or impacts of the amended bill’s provision. This tactic of “legislation by ambush” completely deprives North Carolinians of their right to instruct their legislators on how to vote on critical legislation.
Mayor Darryl Moss of Creedmoor, whose City Commission passed the state’s first fracking ordinance, is particularly disturbed that the legislative proponents of fracking resorted to such tactics. “It simply reflects the complete lack of public interest in their actions that they didn’t want the public, or even most legislators, to be able to see what they were doing. When we passed our ordinance in Creedmoor to protect ourselves from fracking, it was the result of months of research and debate, always at public meetings, and that’s how it’s happening in towns and counties across the state.”