In North Carolina, the state legislature finally hashed out an agreement on fracking regulations and passed a bill through both chambers of the assembly, with the law going into effect March 17, according to The Associated Press. The bill creates a new set of guidelines drilling companies must follow to be granted a permit to frac in gas wells in the state.

The rules are part of a more than two-year process spearheaded by the North Carolina Mining and Energy Commission and will hold gas companies to a new standard in their quest to produce gas at a safe and sustainable level without harming neighboring communities. Included in the rules are specifics regarding how wells are constructed, the distance between the wells and the above water table and requirements for continued field testing of water and air quality nearby.

“The bill enables future lawmakers to revise the guidelines to include any necessary adjustments.”

As a result, drilling companies can now begin applying for permits, but must first purchase land and mineral rights beforehand. Likewise, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources will review the drilling application and has 180 days to submit its approval or objection based on the committee’s own findings, the AP reported.

After more than 220,000 public comments and a year-and-a-half review period, the new rules help govern the future of fracking in the state, yet it’s not clear how much drilling activity will take place right out of the gate.

Maintaining drilling standards
Some opponents of the law worry the rules may not be strict enough in governing fracking. However, the bill received bipartisan support and enables future lawmakers to revise the guidelines to include any necessary adjustments. State Sen. Andrew Brock noted there are already a number of rules from multiple levels of government that should ensure the safety of future drilling, according to The News & Observer.

“Currently, there are 443 air toxic rules that are on the books, with federal and state, so that should take care of the issue,” said Brock.

Further, there’s room for improvements as well if the regulations are not up to par with new safety protocols.

“My understanding is that additional rulemaking, should it be deemed necessary, can be made,” said State Sen. Angela Bryant.

With the demand for gas not as high as it was a year ago, drilling will not likely pick up anytime soon, as the industry has shed rigs over the preceding months.

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