State lawmakers could have taken a cautious approach last year when legislation to allow natural gas exploration in North Carolina came before them. The process used to extract the energy source — hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking” — has yet to be fully vetted for safety, but the Legislature approved a bill to press ahead with authorization, choosing economic potential over environmental protection.
Now the General Assembly appears poised to go one step further as it considers a bill that would erode the modest protections included in last year’s legislation and provide incentives to companies looking to drill here. While North Carolina should strive to develop an energy economy that creates jobs and helps the nation toward independence, lawmakers’ approach to this issue is both reckless and foolish.
When the issue of natural gas exploration came before the Assembly last year, competing bills, both sponsored by Republicans in the majority, would have advanced the process here. One would have taken a go-it-slow approach, by eschewing a deadline for issuing permits until an exhaustive examination is conducted to determine the possible dangers of fracking and how to minimize its impact.
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