Rep. Susi Hamilton, a Democrat from Wilmington, took a lot of flak this week for crossing party lines to vote to override the fracking bill veto on the last night of the session Monday.
At the same time, the Republican-controlled General Assembly approved an extension of tax incentives for the movie industry, smack in her district.
The N.C. League of Conservation Voters then revoked the “Rising Star” award it had given her a few weeks ago, accusing her of trading environmental protection for film incentives.
On Saturday, Hamilton posted a video statement on her Facebook page and released an open letter defending her environmental record.
“I did not vote to support fracking, I voted to regulate fracking,” she writes. “A huge difference. … This was a vote to protect the small rural communities of the state against oil and gas companies.”
She says the oil and gas industry actually wanted to see the governor’s veto sustained Monday so they could resurrect another vetoed energy bill from last year, SB709 – “or, as I call it, ‘drill baby drill.’”
Hamilton touts her 83 percent rating by the N.C. League of Conservation voters, ranking her 12th out of 120 members of the House this year. She also takes a shot at the “well-to-do environmental lobby” for political posturing.
She says her work with Rep. Danny McComas, a Wilmington Republican, to extend the film incentives resulted in a victory for the whole state.
"No one can bully me into anything. They never have, and they never will. Period,” she concludes.
UPDATE: Here is her full statement:
As I took office in 2011, I promised myself that I would always vote my conscience. It hasn’t been easy, and this last session has been particularly trying. Now, it is time to set the record straight.
I did not vote to support fracking, I voted to regulate fracking. A huge difference – but one that tends to get lost in sound bites. I wanted the politics taken out of the debate, and have it instead turned over to a multiple disciplinary board to develop regulations and restriction that must be approved by the NCGA before any permits will be issued by the department of environment and natural resources. This was a vote to protect the small rural communities of the state against oil and gas companies. Make no mistake, oil and gas wanted this veto sustained so they could bring back S709 or as I call it, "drill baby drill." We sustained that veto in 2011.
The latter point is extremely important, and cannot be emphasized enough. Protecting everyone, including our economically disadvantaged and minority citizens, from hurtful actions by big business, is a huge priority for me. Because of my vote, we now have a voice in the discussion.
It is easy to pound your fist and stand on supposed principle when you are wealthy. The well-to-do environmental lobby of the general assembly lacks the ability to see what a bill for what it is. Posturing is not governing, it is advocacy, and the two are very different. I was elected to govern, not advocate.
The environment is extremely important to me. I was the only coastal legislator to vote against the anti-science sea-rise bill on the last day of session. According to the NC League of Conservation Voters, my environmental voting record ranked me 12th out of 120 members of the House this year. I had earned an 83% rating. And, if they openly admitted what they really know and feel about the fracking bill, my rating would have gone even higher after that vote. It is evidently easier to posture than to think. And, unfortunately, it’s much more popular, too.
My work with Rep. Danny McComas to extend the film incentive was a huge victory for all of North Carolina. In the past 20 years, the industry has spent 5.2 billion dollars statewide and created thousands of clean, well-paying jobs. In 2010, the industry spent $80 million statewide – and once the current film incentive was in place in January of 2011, the numbers began to jump. They spent $220 million in 2011, and we are on track to top $310 million this year. The people who work in this industry, and the thousands of businesses across the state that they spend money with, need this trend to continue.
So, I will continue to fight for what is right. People need clean air and water, and to be able to pay their mortgages. North Carolina families need jobs, and that’s what I promised to deliver, and absolutely have. And all of North Carolina’s children have the right to a good education. Obviously, I am willing to take the heat when necessary to do the right thing. No one can bully me into anything. They never have, and they never will. Period. I am simply proud to serve my district and my state, and have pledged to do it to the best of my ability. It’s that simple. As simple as knowing right from wrong.
In Service to Our State,
Rep. Susi Hamilton