By Jesse Wood
July 3, 2012. On Monday night, the Republicans – and some Democrats – of the General Assembly overrode three vetoes by Gov. Bev Perdue in a historic session, one of which was the controversial fracking measure, which would allow mining companies to retrieve shale gas in North Carolina by pumping a high volume of water and chemicals underground.
Perdue’s vetoes have kept lawmakers focused on state issues and kept local bills – such as the proposed bills that would strip Boone’s ETJ powers and would deny Boone the the state’s water reclassification it needs to construct the water intake system on the New River – at bay.
In the case of the fracking measure, the veto was overrode when a Rep. Becky Carney, a Democrat, mistakenly voted in favor of fracking. Her vote was key in the House getting a 3/5 majority vote to override Perdue. The vote passed in a 72-47 vote, which is a half percent more than the 3/5 majority needed to override the governor’s veto.
Organizers with Boone-based Appalachian Voices, an environmental organization that covers issues across Appalachia, are astounded with how the measure came to pass, with how, according to the Charlotte Observer, Wake County Republican Paul “Skip” Stam quickly maneuvered to prevent Carney from changing her vote.
“It’s unbelievable. I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Matt Wasson, director of programs at Appalachian Voices. “I understand that the rule for its deciding vote cannot be changed or whatever, but they knew it was an absolute mistake. It’s shocking.”
“This is somebody [Carney] who was never on the fence [of voting for the measure]. It was a 100 percent, purely a mistake,” Wasson said.
The measure won’t affect Ashe, Avery or Watauga counties because we don’t have natural gas underneath ou feet – or at least not enough to make the pursuit of the fossil fuel economically feasible, but Wasson added that it’s certainly in Allegheny County.
“It’s in our neck of the woods,” Wasson said. “Its not far from some of the natural gas areas coming to Allegheny County.”
Wasson was hesitant to name any specific consequences, whether health or environmental, posed by fracking, but he did say that water contamination from fracking could devastate local communities nearby drilling sites.
“I think there is still science coming in,” Wasson said. “But what we do know is [those communities in and around the fracking sites] will be exposed to risks of water contamination. It’s hard to overstate what a terrible impact losing your water has on families and communities. It’s absolutely devastating.”
The primary collection of shale gas in the state exists in the Triassic basin in the central part of North Carolina and runs from Durham to Sanford and beneath these counties: Durham, Union, Orange, Wake, Richmond, Chatham, Anson, Lee, Moore and Montgomery counties.
Advocates for natural gas maintain that domestic energy is needed to ween ourselves off of foreign oil and that the jobs produced in the exploration and drilling of natural gas is vital to the state’s economy.