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Fracking Rules Take Effect as Changes Are Signed into Law

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Lucy Nicholson/ Reuters/ Landov via stateimpact.npr.org
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An exploratory well drills for oil in the Monterey Shale, California, April 29, 2013.

 Rules governing the hydraulic fracturing method for drilling natural gas are expected to take effect Tuesday.

The set of 120 rules was developed by the state Mining and Energy Commission over nearly two years and approved in December by a separate state panel.

With the fracking rules in place, companies interested in finding natural gas can begin applying for fracking permits. A member of the Mining and Energy Commission, James Womack, says a company interested in fracking would first have to acquire the mineral rights for several hundred acres to create what's known as a drilling unit.

Womack said he believes that at least some drilling will begin in North Carolina by the end of the year, though he cautioned that a driller could hit a snag at various points in the process.

Meanwhile, environmental legislation that gives leeway to a North Carolina state panel in creating air pollution rules for fracking has been signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory.

The governor signed the measure soon after the Senate gave final General Assembly approval Monday night to the bill, which cleans up environmental laws already in place. The legislation adjusts the 2012 law authorizing hydraulic fracturing for drilling natural gas and directing exploration rules be created.

The new law says the Environmental Management Commission doesn't have to create its own toxic-air regulations if it finds existing regulations are adequate.

Supporters say the change was needed now because the other fracking rules take effect Tuesday, opening up applications.

Drilling opponents say the bill makes it less likely top-notch emissions restrictions will occur.

 

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