Fracking bill passed; Gov. Purdue has final say

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CATAWBA COUNTY, N.C. - A bill that would take North Carolina one step closer to fracking could be on the governor's desk as early as next week. The House passed the bill Thursday night and the Senate already approved it.

Rick Gaskins, executive director of the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation, has spent countless hours opposing the bill.  He has been speaking with lawmakers in Raleigh, and his volunteers have been part of rallies.

"Right now the General Assembly seems to be in denial of science," he said.

Hydraulic fracking is a type of drilling where water, sand and chemicals are injected into the ground to break up shale rock and release natural gas.

Gaskins says the science raises concern over groundwater safety, stream contamination and air pollution.

"In North Carolina, we have never allowed injection of any type of material into the ground. We have no track record dealing with this kind of thing," he said.

North Carolina General Assembly Sen. Bob Rucho said over the phone that is not a reason to not explore North Carolina's energy options.

"The same people who say no, no, no just aren't willing to look at it," said Rucho.

A recent government study estimates North Carolina has enough gas and natural gas to feed the state's demand for almost six years.

Rucho says this bill will put safety regulations into place to find that out.

He says permits won't be given out until the General Assembly approves it.

"There's no way to get an accurate account until you determine with exploratory wells, done safely and properly. Then you'll be able to measure the economic impact," said Rucho.

Gaskins says the center part of the state is where fracking would likely happen. While people in the immediate Charlotte area wouldn't see it in their backyards he's concerned the costs statewide will outweigh the gain.

"We feel strongly it is a significant environment issue for the state and that people in Charlotte need to be heard," he said.

Rucho says the Senate has to just approve a few minor changes the House made. Then the bill goes to the governor.

Perdue's representatives said she has to see the bill before they answer questions about whether she will sign it. She issued an executive order in May saying safe fracking could be an option for North Carolina.