The state commission tasked with creating rules to ensure hydraulic fracturing is done safely recommended that the 124 proposed rules about the practice be approved as is.
The NC Rules Review Commission is going ahead with a review of the proposed rules with an eye to approve them ahead of the Jan. 1 deadline.
The rules, submitted by the Mining and Energy Commission, are set to go to the Legislature by Jan. 1 for approval, lifting the state moratorium on fracking.
The Mining Commission opened a public comment period on the rules from July 15 to Sept. 30, including four public meetings to discuss the regulations.
The Review Commission will review the submitted rules Dec. 17, and running into Dec. 18.
Any rules held up in the meeting may not make the Jan. 1 deadline.
Hydraulic fracturing, often called fracking, is the process of pumping pressurized fluid deep into the earth through lined wells to spread fissures in subterranean shale formations, releasing natural gas for harvest.
The fluid – which is 95 percent water, 4.5 percent sand and the remaining 0.5 percent a conglomerate of mostly household chemicals – is then pumped back up to the surface.
The proposed rules cover everything from permitting to set back distances and what happens to the fluid after it is used to spread the fissures, which is usually only a one- or two-day process.
Controversial rules in the proposed regulations are the ones governing the permitting process – the original proposal had the process at 60 days but was extended to 180 days.
The rule sets out how much time the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources will have to review an application.
“This is an important rule – it’s the application review,” Mining Commission member James Womack said. “We really need to get that thing done and done right.”
A Rules Review Commission lawyer said that change requires public comment.
The Mining Commission is arguing the change is not substantial and therefore requires no more public comment, a process that could tack months onto the rulemaking process.
“You can make a logical argument that’s not a substantive change,” Womack said during a commission meeting. “It’s significant – not substantive.”