From an editorial Friday in the (Greensboro) News & Record:
Greensboro’s bill for fighting legislative changes to its City Council election system is $136,000, so far. That’s the city’s price for defending its rights. Not a dime of it would be necessary if the legislature had left the city to manage its own affairs.
Charlotte and Asheville have also gone to court to protect an airport and water system, respectively, from state intrusion. They’ve been successful so far.
Some counties may be in a similar position in regard to natural gas drilling. Stokes County commissioners will consider imposing a two-year moratorium on fracking later this month, the Winston-Salem Journal reports. Chatham County took a similar step last month, and Lee County is looking at zoning changes that would restrict where fracking could occur.
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The question is whether these local actions are allowed under the Energy Modernization Act, the 2014 state law designed to introduce the natural gas industry to North Carolina. The law bars local governments from enacting their own regulations to prohibit natural gas exploration, development and production.
Chatham County’s resolution says state regulations don’t provide adequate protections. It claims the authority under state law to impose a temporary moratorium.
While the legislature is eager to welcome the energy industry, it may find that local governments won’t be willing partners. The legislature should recognize that counties want to look out for their own interests – or it may see them in court.