RALEIGH-- A bill that fast tracks fracking in North Carolina heads to Gov. McCrory's desk. The bill sped through the House and passed its final vote 64 to 50 on Thursday. Afterwards, the Senate concurred with the changes that the House made with a 33 to 12 vote.
With chants and signs, dozens of fracking opponents lined the outside of the Legislative Building before the House's final debate on the bill. Protesters tried to stop lawmakers from bringing the energy industry to the state too quickly and without proper protection for the environment.
"They also are trying to take away the rights of land owners and of local governments to decide for themselves whether or not they want fracking here in North Carolina. That's unconstitutional and undemocratic," said Renée Maas of Food and Water Watch.
Protesters had hoped lawmakers keep their concerns in mind as they debated the bill.
"We can have stricter rules in here that are stricter than the federal government for energy exploration in North Carolina," said Rep. Mike Hager, a Republican representing Burke County.
As protesters held their signs outside the gallery window, the House voted down a handful of amendments from Democrats aimed at slowing down fracking and revealing drilling companies trade secrets to the public.
"When your trade secret enters my daughter's drinking water, it becomes my right to know," said Rep. Grier Martin, a Democrat representing Wake County.
"We all understand how important sensitive information is, and we're not trying to deny it, we're just trying to allow the operation to move forward so we can do it in the safest manner possible protecting the people of the state of North Carolina," said Rep. Mike Stone, a Republican representing Lee County, which is one location where drilling could ultimately occur.
Under the House's bill, the state could begin issuing permits to drilling companies for fracking on the 61st day after the General Assembly approves the rules to govern the industry.
"Are we ready to move forward with this as a state?" said Rep. Becky Carney, a Democrat representing Mecklenburg County. "I don't think all the safe guards are in place."
Gov. McCrory said he will sign the bill when it reaches his desk.
"I've been pushing that since 2008," McCrory said. "We've sat on the sidelines in this state for far too long in oil and gas exploration and having North Carolina create jobs and also help with our country's energy independence."