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NC House Fast Tracks Plan To Make State Air-Quality Standards Optional For Fracking

A crude oil mining site in Oxnard, Calif.
Faces of Fracking

The North Carolina House of Representatives approved a controversial measure that could exempt the state from creating its own air-quality standards for fracking.

Republican supporters say the plan will take a burden off state regulators while Democratic opponents complain existing federal regulations alone are insufficient.

In a hearing on the floor of the House, Democrats claimed Republicans were rushing the provision in advance of the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources offering the state's first applications for gas exploration through hydraulic fracturing. The applications are expected next week.

"This can wait," said Rep. Paul Luebke (D-Durham). "We should wait until Monday so there’s an opportunity for the public to weigh in."

And some Republicans, like Rep. David Lewis (R-Harnett), agreed the proposal could have been vetted.

"Do I think that adding this bill to today’s calendar is the ideal solution? I don’t," Lewis said during debate. "I wish that we did not have to do that."

But Rep. Pat McElraft (R-Carteret) said the bill was properly debated in two committees before being sent to the House floor.

"We’re not trying to hide anything," McElraft said. "We’re trying to take this through the process."

The plan, which was approved in a 76 to 40 vote, is now before the Senate.

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