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McCrory, GOP make last-minute push to lift state's fracking moratorium

UPDATED: Gov. Pat McCrory came to the legislative building Wednesday evening to whip votes on a newly crafted measure to lift the state's moratorium on fracking.

The fracking provision -- which would lift the moratorium July 1, 2015 -- is tucked into a proposed conference report on Senate Bill 127, a measure to reorganize the state's commerce department and privatize part of the state's job recruitment efforts.

The new measure would authorize the state to start issuing permits for shale gas exploration, a major priority for McCrory and Senate Republicans, according to a copy obtained by Dome. But it cannot do so until rules are made, bill supporters said.

Morning Roundup: State to press companies on fracking rights

State authorities are stepping up their campaign against home builder D.R. Horton in a bid to pressure the Texas company to return underground fracking rights to hundreds of homeowners in North Carolina.

Their concerns have gained urgency in recent weeks in the wake of the state legislature’s legalization of fracking, a controversial method of extracting natural gas from underground shale rock formations. More here.

More political headlines:

--Nearly 6,000 delegates are expected in September, representing the 50 states, U.S. territories and “Democrats Abroad.” From California to Maine, Puerto Rico to Sweden, delegates are looking toward Charlotte and their excitement is palpable. Again and again in interviews, Democrats used the same phrase to describe what the convention means to them: “The chance of a lifetime.”

Gov. Perdue issues executive order creating fracking task force

Gov. Bev Perdue issued an executive order Monday establishing a task force to push forward with a controversial natural gas drilling process known as fracking.

Perdue asked the workgroup to "develop recommendations for regulatory framework and interagency protocols for oil and gas exploration." 

“North Carolina needs a strong set of standards in place before we allow fracking here," she said in a statement. "If done safely, fracking can be part of a larger energy solution to create jobs and help lower energy costs.  Before we permit anyone to ‘frack’ in North Carolina, however, we must hear from all sides, address all issues, and develop a robust set of rules."

EO 118.pdf

Morning Roundup: Controversial issues give way to education-themed day

A trio of controversial issues dominated the discussion Wednesday -- fracking, immigration and gay marriage -- but education is today's topic.

The N.C. Association of School Administrators will hold its annual conference in Raleigh today. Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue will speak at 9 a.m., continuing her push for better education funding. And the Democratic candidates who want to replace her -- Bob Etheridge, Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton and Rep. Bill Faison -- will speak at a 5 p.m. forum, along with those seeking the state superintendent post.

Republican Pat McCrory released his education plan Wednesday, getting a day -- and a story -- all to himself on the topic. He outlined a series of proposals including merit pay for teachers, more accountability, faster expansion of charter schools and more e-learning.

For other headlines, see below.

Two House Republicans call for delay in fracking

Two state Republican lawmakers said Wednesday they will lead an effort to delay legalizing fracking in this state. The move casts doubt on plans by some in the state legislature who have been pushing to quickly legalize the controversial natural gas extraction technique.

Rep. Mitch Gillespie, chairman of the House appropriations committee, spent an hour outlining for reporters reasons why the state should take several years to make sure fracking is done safely and responsibly. Gillespie, representing Burke and McDowell counties, said that conducting more research and crafting laws would delay legalized fracking here by at least two to three years.

Gillespie was flanked on one side by Rep. Michael Stone of Harnett and Lee counties, areas where natural gas deposits are thought to be held underground in shale rock formations. On Gillespie’s other side stood Rep. Pricey Harrison, a Guilford County Democrat sympathetic to environmental causes who said she remained concerned that fracking contaminates drinking water and endangers public safety. More here.

Pat McCrory touts fracking, pushing issue that benefits law firm's client

As one of the most vocal suppporters of fracking, Pat McCrory is pushing an issue that benefits a client of his law firm.

The Republican candidate for governor is a strategic policy consultant at Moore & Van Allen, a Charlotte firm that represents the N.C. Petroleum Council. The council is lobbying to implement fracking, a controversial practice for natural gas drilling, by commissioning a poll buttressing support and touting its benefits at public hearings, including the one Tuesday in Chapel Hill.

The connection is fueling Democrats and liberal groups concerns about whether McCrory is pushing the agenda of his private clients, especially given his campaign and access to top Republican legislative leaders. McCrory denies any coordination.

"He's championing their cause while running for  governor," said Walton Robinson, a state Democratic Party spokesman. "I'm assuming because he refuses to disclose anything to the people of North Carolina that he works directly or indirectly for this organization."

McCrory strikes cautious tone on economy, critcizes Perdue's fracking trip

Pat McCrory touted his private sector experience and tried to reassure a ballroom of commercial real estate developers Wednesday about the economy, saying that "hopefully you've seen the worst and things are starting to come back."

"Right now, North Carolina is going through a very tough time," McCrory said.

McCrory, the presumptive GOP nominee for governor, struck a less definitive tone than Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue, who recently declared "North Carolina is coming out of the recession; you can take it to the bank.”

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

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.

On fracking: Faison opposed, Dalton and Etheridge support with caution

UPDATED: Gov. Bev Perdue's move Wednesday toward fracking is putting the Democratic candidates vying to replace her on the spot. 

Read more about the candidates' positions below.

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