Last-minute efforts to push through a bill that would repeal the fracking moratorium in the state of North Carolina failed yesterday, with Representative Mike Hager (R-Rutherford), who steers energy bills to the floor, quietly admitting the loss. In the final days of session for the General Assembly, the House recognized the bill was too divisive to push through without full consideration in committee. “We like for controversial legislation to go through the committee process,” Hager said. “I’m not going to hurry — we’ve been accused of that before.”
Senate Bill 127 would have repealed a prohibition on fracking permits, which critics of the bill say would essentially lift the state’s moratorium on fracking. The legislation would have also decreased tax rates on oil and gas companies in an attempt to encourage drilling activity in the state. According to the News and Observer, the fracking provisions in the bill were unknown to most House members just 36 hours earlier, after being discreetly inserted into legislation that originally would reconfigure the N.C. Department of Commerce. This misleading tactic has been used before in the North Carolina General Assembly this session, including attaching stringent abortion restrictions first to an anti-Sharia measure and then again to a motorcycle safety bill.
Representative Hager previously failed to repeal North Carolina’s successful Renewable Energy Standard (RES), despite attempts to push through the bill without even a vote count. The 2007 RES law has been widely popular in North Carolina, creating thousands of clean energy jobs and pumping billions into the economy. Even the CEO of the largest electricity power holding company in the United States, Duke Energy Corp., has expressed support for the law on behalf of the company.
These attempts to ram through unpopular reform are not isolated events. Recently, North Carolina has received national attention for its regressive policies being approved by a newly established Republican majority and governor, including relaxing gun regulations, restricting access to the ballot, and adopting tax reform that would disproportionately benefit the rich. These measures have disenfranchised North Carolinians, motivating them to participate in the largest liberal protest in the nation, which has led to the arrest of over 900 citizens.
Rep. Hager is a well-known member of ALEC, a right-wing legislation factory that is backed by the Koch brothers and that drives the campaign behind repealing the RES and also supports the oil and gas industry. Despite widespread bipartisan support for renewable energy usage and a state-wide fracking ban, Hager will continue his misguided efforts on behalf of his conservative backers – he has promised to reintroduce a RES repeal next legislative session and has suggested the fracking bill could be reconsidered in a special session.