News | May 20, 2015

Court reinstates fracking moratorium in North Carolina

Wake County Superior Court has granted a preliminary injunction sought by SELC to stop the state’s Mining and Energy Commission from accepting or processing permit applications for fracking in the state or from creating any drilling units. The decision effectively reinstates a moratorium on fracking pending the outcome of a constitutional challenge to the composition of the Commission itself.

In 2012 the North Carolina General Assembly not only established the MEC, it went on to give itself the majority of appointments. The Commission subsequently instituted a set of inadequate regulations in its attempt to fast track hydraulic fracturing—fracking—despite widespread concerns among citizens.

By giving itself control of an executive branch body, however—eight members to the governor’s five—the legislature violated the separation of powers doctrine firmly established in the state constitution. SELC argued that because an unconstitutional commission created the fracking rules, they are therefore null and void.

In fact, the General Assembly has used the same approach to control not only the MEC, but the Oil and Gas Commission, North Carolina Mining Commission, and the Coal Ash Commission. In November 2013, current Governor Pat McCrory joined former Governors Jim Hunt and Jim Martin in a lawsuit to challenge the practice.

Read the press release here.