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NC energy policy shifts attention from fracking to offshore drilling

The state House approved an energy policy Monday that looks beyond fracking in the short term and turns its focus to offshore energy exploration, which could proceed on a scale of decades.

The legislation’s focus on offshore oil drilling, and its effect on tourism-dependent areas, is a shift that could transform North Carolina's coastal region with the promise of jobs and the threat of an accident, as well as the certainty of heated disagreement. Drilling in the Atlantic Ocean remains under prohibition but is slowly being revisited as the nation looks for future sources of energy.

Morning Roundup: New fracking board raises ethical issues

Members of the new state board overseeing drilling and fracking in North Carolina is not required required to disclose whether they could potentially profit from the practice they oversee. The board chairman Ray Covington and his family own more than 1,000 acres of timberland in Lee County, considered to be a natural gas-rich pay zone and prime fracking territory.

Such issues are not specifically mentioned on the state’s ethics disclosure form, unforeseen by North Carolina’s ethics rules because for the simple reason that there is no history of oil and gas exploration here. Read more here.

More political headlines below.

Anti-fracking protesters chained themselves to state office building

A small group of protestors chained themselves to revolving doors at a state office building in downtown Raleigh and blocked the entry for over an hour in an act of political theater the participants termed civil disobedience.

Raleigh and State Capitol police arrived with bolt cutters to break up the protest and initially cordoned off the area as a “crime scene.” But they left the demonstrators undisturbed until the group dispersed on it own at midday without incident. Read more here.

Morning Roundup: Pendergraph want's another shot at Washington

Jim Pendergraph’s last job in Washington didn’t work out quite the way he’d planned. He tangled with bureaucrats, butted heads with a congressman and made a remark that sent shudders up the spines of immigrant rights advocates. Then he left. Now he wants to go back. Pendergraph, 61, is running for Congress from the 9th District. Read a candidate profile.

More political headlines:

--In the weeks leading up to the N.C. General Assembly’s vote to approve fracking, Lee County property owner Charles Oldham had a natural gas company knocking on his door. The company wants to drill test wells on a tract of loblolly pine forest that Oldham owns west of Sanford. But Oldham said he’s not yet ready to cash in on mineral rights. He’s a bit suspicious of the companies involved in the practice of hydraulic fracturing. 

Republicans override fracking veto, thanks to an accidental vote

Republican lawmakers worked into the night to get enough votes to override Gov. Bev Perdue’s veto of the fracking legislation -- possibly winning approval thanks to a Democrat's mistaken vote.

Rep. Becky Carney, a Charlotte Democrat, hit the wrong button and voted in favor of the override, giving the GOP the one-vote margin it needed to void the veto just before 11:30 a.m.

Carney said she "made a huge mistake" and hit the wrong button in the rush  to vote. House rules don't allow lawmakers to change their vote if it affect the outcome of the tally but Carney wanted to ask to waive House rules. 

N.C. Senate overrides Perdue's veto of fracking bill

The state Senate vote to override Gov. Bev Perdue’s veto of legislation that would legalize fracking in the state, setting up a showdown in the N.C. House.

The Senate voted 29 to 13 after a brief discussion that covered familiar ground about the pros and cons of drilling sideways and smashing underground shale rock to release natural gas.

When the House passed the bill earlier this month, support would not have been enough to override a veto. But not all members were present for the House vote and lawmakers are known to switch sides for a veto override. More here.

Dalton splits with Perdue, opposes veto of fracking legislation

Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton supports Gov. Bev Perdue's vetoes of the state budget adjustments and a rewrite of the Racial Justice Act -- but not on the issue of natural gas drilling through fracking.

In an interview Monday, Dalton said lawmakers made concessions on the legislation establishing a framework for natural gas drilling in North Carolina. "It is a proactive step," he said. "It's not perfect; it's not what I would necessary want. But I would prefer seeing that put in place as we leave here than not having some time of regulatory process going forward."

N.C. Senate approves legislation legalizing fracking

The state Senate approved the legalization of fracking in North Carolina this afternoon, sending the measure to the state House, where it is widely expected to be approved.

Republicans overcame objections from Wake County Sen. Josh Stein and other Democrats that natural gas exploration poses risks to the environment and to the public health. Fracking boosters argued that energy is the lifeblood of the economy and assured the risks are manageable. Read more here.

Senate panel advances fracking bill with some detractors left out of room

A Senate committee on Tuesday voted to take steps to legalize fracking in North Carolina, leaving supporters elated about the potential economic benefits of natural gas drilling and critics resigned to the inevitability of legalization by the state legislature this summer.

The Senate Commerce Committee voted on the measure after an emotional debate in a standing-room-only hearing room, with an overflow crowd gathered outside. Before the debate began those in attendance were warned that any disruptions would result in ejection from the room.

The bill now heads to the full state Senate and afterwards for votes in the state House of Representatives. Boosters expect quick approval by the Republican-led legislature. Read more here.

House, Senate seek common voice on fracking legislation

Advocates of fracking in North Carolina have fashioned identical bills in the state House and Senate, introduced Thursday, in hopes of minimizing squabbles and building support this summer to legalize the controversial method of extracting natural gas.

Sen. Bob Rucho has paired up with Rep. Mitch Gillespie of McDowell and Burke counties and other fracking supporters in the state House, who will be urging quick action on an identical piece of legislation among their members. Rucho touted the pair of fracking bills as “the very finest regulation, bar none, in the country.”

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