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Dome: Fracking moratorium remains in place

The effort to lift the state’s fracking moratorium has died a quiet death, one of several casualties resulting from a House-Senate compromise on the state’s energy policy.

The Senate is scheduled to take up a comprehensive energy measure, Senate Bill 76, on Tuesday. It emerged publicly on Friday after a month of closed-door conference discussions between House and Senate members.

The resulting compromise has been stripped of controversial provisions that would have lifted the state’s fracking moratorium in 2015, removed the state geologist from the N.C. Mining and Energy Commission, and allowed for the deep injection of fracking waste in disposal wells.

The Senate had proposed those and other changes in the spring, but the House balked at radically revising a complex energy law that had passed just a year earlier by a single vote. Many of the House’s concerns are reflected in the compromise.

The new version directs the Mining and Energy Commission to conduct several studies. One is on the feasibility of a coordinated permitting program that would require a single comprehensive permit for shale gas exploration. Another is to study the appropriate severance tax rate on fracking operations. And another calls for studying registration requirements for the “landmen” who sign drilling leases with property owners.

The bill would also create a $250 million offshore energy emergency cleanup fund. And it directs the governor to work with his counterparts in Virginia and South Carolina to create a regional strategy for developing offshore drilling and offshore wind farms.

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