Fracking, ready or not

From an editorial Tuesday in the Fayetteville Observer:

The gold rush may begin today. Then again, maybe not. The price of gold isn’t what it used to be.

Over the last two years, our elected leaders and the bureaucrats who work for them have been in a headlong rush to clear the way for hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. They’ve seen the revenue fracking has brought to places as disparate as Pennsylvania, Oklahoma and North Dakota, and they want a piece of the action.

But the fracking boom has created a near-glut of oil and natural gas supplies. Some fracking operations in other states have shut down and others can barely afford to continue. Is this the time to set up shop in North Carolina, which some experts say holds a negligible natural-gas resource?

We'll know soon: Today is the first day to apply for fracking permits.

But despite the less-than-rosy outlook, lawmakers remain eager to ensure that no obstacles hinder drillers. They hurried last week to pass legislation that forbids state regulators from imposing air-emission rules on fracking that are more stringent than federal standards – which are meant as minimums. So much for legislative vows that we’d have the most stringent fracking regulations in the country. We won’t.

In matters like this, protecting the people is government’s top job. But our leaders aren’t even pretending.