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T. Boone Pickens likes NC's energy bills, which includes fracking

Investor, financier and hedge fund manager T. Boone Pickens is giving a Texas-sized cheer to North Carolina for the Old North State's emerging energy policies.

Pickens, who chairs BP Capital Management, has issued an enthusiastic blurb in support of a package of three energy bills that would legalize fracking in this state and urge drilling off the coast of the Atlantic Ocean.

Obama campaign: Oil companies, speculators to blame for rising gas prices

The North Carolina Obama campaign said Tuesday that the administration had worked to make energy more available, and blamed rising prices on oil companies and speculators.

Democratic Congressman Brad Miller, speaking as a surrogate for the campaign, said there is more domestic oil production than at any time in the past eight years and more natural gas production than the nation has ever had.

“North Carolina voters know where the responsibility really lies,” Miller said in a teleconference. “They place the blame with the oil companies. They place the blame with speculators and they know perfectly well there has been an extraordinary effort in the Obama administration to increase energy production.''

DENR: Fracking is OK so long as safeguards are in place

State environmental regulators say fracking can be done safely so long as protections are in place. But more study is needed about the groundwater in places where the energy drilling method known as hydraulic fracturing might occur.

That’s the word from the study that the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources was required to conduct by a law passed last year by the General Assembly.

The report, issued this afternoon, includes numerous recommendations that should go into effect before any horizontal drilling is done.

The big recommendation is requiring companies to disclose the chemicals used in the fracking process, and make that information public except for trade secrets. The chemical content of the process has been a major concern in other states. North Carolina currently does not permit fracking.

Highlights of other recommendations include: oil and gas operators should have state-approved plans that limit the amount of water that can be withdrawn, improve current well construction standards, make sure first-responders are prepared to deal with explosions or other emergencies, and determining clear lines of regulatory authority.

The report is considered to be a draft and will be discussed in a series of public hearings. The report is available online at www.ncdenr.gov.

Limbaugh says Perdue showed Dracula the cross with fracking comments

Rush Limbaugh discussed Gov. Bev Perdue's apparent support of fracking, calling her action the equivalent of "showing Dracula the cross."

The Dracula in this scenario are liberal groups and environmentalists. A coalition of environmental groups issued a statement Thursday saying, "Perdue should be ashamed ashamed of her ill-conceived secret visit to Pennsylvania only to tour gas extraction operations, as well as her recent statements to the media that 'fracking can be done safely' and that it can 'help America and North Carolina be globally competitive.'"

"To say these things just as her agency gets ready to release its official study and before the public has had a chance to review and comment on it is completely irresponsible," said Hope Taylor of Clean Water for NC, a group opposed to fracking. "This flies in the face of a growing body of information about state regulatory failures and the science pointing to water and air contamination and health damage associated with gas operations."

The amazing part is how the language fits in with Republican messaging, which coined the "secret trip" description. To listen to Limbaugh's remarks about Perdue, click here. Oh, and when he's talking about "Dumpling" ... he's referring to Perdue.

Notebook: Pat McCrory keeps Perdue as major campaign focus

Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue won't appear on the 2012 ballot -- but she remains the focus of Republican candidate Pat McCrory's stump speech.

The Perdue-pinata theme continued Saturday evening when the former Charlotte mayor rallied Republicans at the Orange County Republican Party's Lincoln-Reagan Dinner.

Here's a few scribbles from my notebook:

--It seems like McCrory relished the chance to challenge Perdue before she exited. And it is clear he is trying his best to tie the other Democratic candidates for governor as closely to Perdue and former Gov. Mike Easley as possible. "All the names that are being discussed supported the Easley-Perdue policies and the way they did business," he told me in an interview after his speech, which hit similar points. "Not one of them spoke against the culture of ethics in the last eight years and said, 'this is wrong.' We can't find it from any of the people running now."

In Perdue's departure from the race, some conservatives see a White House conspiracy. "We have a post-American president who nudged aside a failed governor in North Carolina to make it harder for Pat McCrory," said Frank Roche, a talk radio host and former GOP candidate who served as the event's emcee.

Protesters greet lawmakers at statehouse

A chorus of 50 protesters chanting slogans and banging drums provided a soundtrack for this evening's legislative session in Raleigh.

Authorities escorted lawmakers through the so-far peaceful crowd that came to protest Senate Bill 709, the Energy Jobs Act, which would pave a way for offshore oil drilling and shale gas extraction through a process known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

Republicans leaders pledged not to hold an override vote on the bill -- which Gov. Bev Perdue vetoed earlier this year -- but some in the crowd were skeptical.

"They've said things (like that) before and we want them to know how we feel right now," said Ruth Zalph, 81, of Chapel Hill.

Zalph slung a drum over her shoulder and marched around the legislative building chanting, "Toxic water, toxic air; we get sick and they don't care."

The bill would not allow fracking but even a study of the practice worried the environmentalists. "We have seen in other states what happened with fracking," Zalph said. "Why study what we already know. It's a waste of time."

N.C. lawmakers taking trips to Pennsylvania to examine fracking rigs

As the fracking debate continues in the legislature, The News & Observer visited Pennsylvania to see how the process works in a state that underwent a similar debate.

And we found we weren't the only ones from North Carolina making the trip. A number of state lawmakers are going, too. From Sunday's big piece on the fracking debate:

"North Carolina is only in the beginning stages of modern energy exploration, conducting a study on the laws and regulations that would be needed to allow a controversial method of gas drilling to take place here. Still, state lawmakers have vowed to overturn Gov. Bev Perdue's veto of an energy jobs bill that would, among other things, start the process toward legalizing drilling and extracting shale gas through a process called "fracking."

"Think about what it delivers: Long-term economic growth and prosperity," said Sen. Bob Rucho, a Republican from Mecklenburg County who spent several days touring drill sites in Pennsylvania with Rep. Mike Hager, a fellow Republican from Cleveland and Rutherford counties. "This is energy independence and economic independence."

Read the full story here.

Former Gov. Granholm coming to promote clean energy

Former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm will spend the day in Raleigh on Tuesday to promote clean energy. Currently an advisor to the Pew Charitable Trusts, Granholm and the Pew’s Clean Energy Program director, Phyllis Cuttino, will attend three events.

They’ll start the day at the Raleigh Convention Center, where a four-day national conference for the electric car industry will be under way. Granholm will make a presentation and then visit exhibits at Plug-in 2011.

After lunch, they’ll head over to N.C. State University for a tour of its solar center at the Keystone Science Center. Then in the evening, it will be a reception with the N.C. Sustainable Energy Association at the alumni center.

House passes bill in support of off-shore drilling, gas fracking

In a largely party-line vote, the state House approved a Republican-backed bill that rewrites state energy policy to promote and approve of the drilling of natural gas on land and off the coast.

Supporters of Senate Bill 709 said drilling would create revenue for the cash-strapped state government and jobs for North Carolinians by creating a regulatory atmosphere that is more "pro business."

Republican lawmakers brushed aside concerns raised by Democrats about the potential for an off-shore spill to negatively impact coastal tourism and the possible contamination of drinking wells through the use of a controversial gas drilling technique that relies on the hydraulic fracturing underground rock, known as fracking.

"It's time to get crackin' on frackin'," said an enthusiastic Rep. John Blust, a Greensboro Republican. "If we're worrying about tourism, do you think $4 a gallon gas is going to affect tourism. We need more fossil fuels in this country."

Democrats objected to the often-repeated GOP talking point that drilling for natural gas will reduce gasoline prices and reduce the nation's dependence on foreign oil. There are not believed to be sizable deposits of oil off the North Carolina coast.

After a study was quoted as saying that increased domestic oil production would have a negligible impact on gasoline prices, Blust countered that such economic analyses were produced by "whackos in an ivory tower."

An attempt by Rep. Pricey Harrison, a Greensboro Democrat, to amend the bill to add renewable energy sources such as wind power and wave power to the list of options for creating new energy was defeated.

Harrison pointed out that tourism generates many more jobs and revenue in the state than even the most rosy of forecast for drilling.

"We have a tourism economy that depends on a clean coast," Harrison said.

Republican supporters countered that the bill designates the first $500 million the state earns through off-shore drilling royalties to a special fund to clean up the environmental damage from any accident or spill.

The bill, a version of which has already passed the Senate, was approved 67-44.

Offshore drilling: We learned from our mistakes

Acknowledging the timing was ironic, a trio of Republican state senators this morning held a news conference to announce they had filed a bill to open up the North Carolina coast to energy drilling.

Today is the one-year anniversary of the BP oil disaster in the Gulf Coast.

Sen. Bob Rucho of Mecklenburg County dealt head-on in his opening remarks with what he acknowledged was “a little irony.”

“But what we did learn from this disaster is we learned from our mistakes,” Rucho said. “The industry has already found ways to make sure that oil exploration and production can be done in a very safe manner.”

Sen. Harry Brown of Onslow County pointed out that the bill is about natural gas and not oil, which he said was environmentally safer. The bill also encourages exploration of a variety of alternative energy sources.

But the focus on the bill is on natural gas. It would direct Gov. Bev Perdue to enter into a pact with the governors of Virginia and South Carolina to urge the president to open the East Coast to explore for natural gas 40 miles offshore.

If there is a sufficient deposit of natural gas out there, entering into a revenue-sharing agreement would bring North Carolina 6,700 jobs and generate half a billion dollars in revenue every year for decades, according to the sponsors. Sen. Tommy Tucker of Union County is the third sponsor.

This afternoon, the governor's spokesman issued this statement:

"Gov. Perdue appointed the Governor’s Scientific Advisory Panel on Offshore Energy to advise the state on the potential effects of offshore drilling – and she has clearly insisted that any revenue generated from drilling off our coast should be shared with the state and its people. As for this specific bill, she will watch its progress through the General Assembly before making a decision about it.”

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