RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Gov. Pat McCrory has signed into law a bill that clears the way for permits to be issued for gas drilling by a method called fracking in North Carolina as soon as next spring.
McCrory on Wednesday signed the Energy Modernization Act during an event at North Carolina State University. The measure further refines previous legislation to allow companies to extract oil and gas from the ground by injecting high-pressure mixtures into rock.
The bill lifts a 2012 moratorium that blocked permits. Critics say the bill passed gives lawmakers less time to object to those rules and changes how permits would be issued.
McCrory said in a statement that the law will spur economic development and create jobs throughout all sectors of the economy, especially in rural areas.
"The expansion of our energy sector will not come at a cost to our precious environment. This legislation has the safeguards to protect the high quality of life we cherish," he said.
Environmental groups including the Sierra Club and Environment North Carolina quickly criticized the law as harmful to the public waterways and negligent of other energy sources like wind and solar.
"There are more than 1,000 documented cases of contaminated water from fracking across the country," said Elizabeth Ouzts, state director of Environment North Carolina. "By rushing to frack, Gov. McCrory and legislative leaders are putting North Carolina's rivers and the drinking water for millions in jeopardy."