The push to legalize fracking in North Carolina could hit pay dirt this week.
The fracking bill that just days ago sailed through the state Senate could be approved by the N.C. House as early as Wednesday, clearing the way to a sweeping overhaul of the state’s energy policy.
The vote is playing out against a looming question: Does North Carolina have sufficient amounts of natural gas to attract the fracking industry?
The bill would roll back a decades-old ban on drilling laterally and flushing chemicals underground – the two main components of natural gas exploration in shale rock formations. Fracking is industry shorthand for hydraulic fracturing of underground rock with millions of gallons of water and chemicals pumped at high pressure.
Rep. Mike Hager, a Republican representing Rutherford and Cleveland counties, said the fracking legislation, known as the Clean Energy and Economic Security Act, could get a hearing before the House Environment Committee as early as Tuesday, with a full House vote on the following day, or possibly the following week.
Hager said the amount of natural gas the state contains in its Triassic Basins is not a big concern.
“That’s not a pertinent piece of information,” Hager said. “We’re there to set up a regulatory environment and environmental constraints as to what drilling companies can and can’t do. I don’t see that it’s our job to ascertain what the commercial viability is of the shale gas.”