Polls show North Carolinians are divided over the practice of “fracking” to mine natural gas and other resources under the Earth’s crust, so it’s probably safe to say we could all use a little more information. State lawmakers are considering lifting a moratorium on such mining in the next year or so.
So why in the world has N.C. Sen. E.S. “Buck” Newton introduced legislation that would actually make it a Class 1 felony for someone to intentionally disclose the chemicals used in the process?
Newton, a Republican from Wilson County whose district includes part of Rocky Mount, has joined two other senators in introducing the Energy Modernization Act. Newton is a big supporter of fracking, a process in which mining companies inject chemicals into the earth in order to reach natural gas reserves. Environmental groups contend the practice poses a threat to drinking water supplies. That’s probably why a poll conducted last year by Elon University found that just under half of those surveyed say they support fracking. More than a third of those who responded say they oppose it.
The questions raised by fracking in other states should at least make us cautious about its potential. The state of Texas – not exactly an enclave of wild-eyed liberal thinking – was the first state in the country to pass laws requiring fracking companies to disclose what chemicals they’re using. About 20 states have similar laws.
Not only does Newton’s proposed legislation turn its back on common-sense disclosure requirements, it would make it a felony for anyone to reveal what’s being used in the fracking process. Convicted offenders would face a few months in jail, under his proposal, plus fines. The list of fracking chemicals should be considered proprietary information, Newton has said.
That’s a tough drink to swallow. Surely, the health and safety of millions of North Carolinians supersede whatever competitive advantage a company might glean by keeping its formula secret – especially since much of that information is readily available in other states.
Newton’s zealous protection of the mining industry’s interests give us pause to wonder. Who in Raleigh is looking out for the welfare of North Carolinians?