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Energy exploration bill returns to NC Senate panel

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 21, 2013 at 5:00 pm •  Published: February 21, 2013

The bill "threatens our water quality," Ouzts said after the meeting. "It represents the wrong course for our energy future."

A state government report issued in 2012 said fracking could be performed safely in North Carolina if the right regulations were in place.

Newton said earlier this week the new bill was needed because the natural gas industry needed assurances North Carolina was serious about exploration. In New York, for example, a fracking moratorium has been in place for 4½ years with no assurance it will be lifted even if regulations are finalized this year.

The greatest potential for fracking in North Carolina appears to be with shale deposits in the Piedmont and Sandhills. Estimates vary on the amount of natural gas that could be reached. Republicans see a burgeoning natural gas industry bringing jobs and tax revenues to the state, but critics say the benefits are several years away or may never come because the reserves aren't that great.

The bill also sets new severance tax rates on gas, oil and liquid fuel extracted by future exploration that's based on its market value and increase over time, which lawmakers hope will attract exploration early. The measure also urges McCrory to work with the governors of South Carolina and Virginia to lobby the federal government to jump-start energy exploration off the mid-Atlantic coast. McCrory and the other governor wrote a letter last week promoting the exploration.

The bill will ultimately go to the House, where Speaker Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, said last week he was inclined for now to let the fracking process play itself out based on what the 2012 law directed. McCrory has said he supports both fracking and offshore energy exploration.