The North Carolina General Assembly passed a law that prohibits local governments from overstepping state legislation by passing ordinances or regulations that would limit natural gas drilling.

As the last legislative action before adjourning their current session, N.C. senators added a technical corrections provision to Senate Bill 119 that stated “all provisions of local ordinances, including those regulating land use, adopted by counties, municipalities or other local authorities that regulate or have the effect of regulating oil and gas exploration, development and production activities … are invalidated and unenforceable.” Gov.Pat McCrory signed the bill into law the next day.

The new provisions would require any natural gas company facing local zoning or land use ordinances that impede its operation to petition the state’s oil and gas commission for a public hearing.

“The state legislature will now have a uniform system for regulating oil and gas development.”

Three counties in the state had previously passed moratoriums on fracking and a fourth was scheduled to adopt a temporary moratorium. The Senate’s move reinforces the state’s 2014 Energy Modernization Act, which lifted a suspension on fracking licenses and opened the state up to energy development.

“We have watched and waited as other states moved forward with energy exploration, and it is finally our turn,” McCrory said when he signed the law in March. “This legislation will spur economic development at all levels of our economy, not just the energy sector.”

According to the technical corrections provision passed in SB 199, the state legislature will now have a “uniform system” for regulating oil and gas development, which will help state and local governments to write laws and make contracts with oil companies.

The economic boom of natural gas drilling

“Among the potential economic gains for the state are nearly 500 new jobs.”

According to a study released by McCrory’s office in conjunction with North Carolina State University, North Carolina stands to benefit from on-shore energy development. Among the potential economic gains for the state are nearly 500 new jobs needed for infrastructure development and an ensuing $80 million in additional annual income pouring into the state’s economy. Additionally, the report estimated close to 1,500 jobs would be created by production activities

The move could result in an economic upswing for both North Carolina and the region. According to a report from Energy and Capital, states such as North Dakota that have active natural gas drilling were better able to weather the recent economic depression. Additionally, the publication found that fracking increased state and federal revenues by $75 billion, and added $283 billion to the gross domestic product.

Drilling in the region could contribute to the further decline of natural gas prices. The Brookings Institution reported that U.S. fracking has lowered natural gas prices by 47 percent. That decline saved the average U.S. gas-consuming household $200 per year, for a total national savings of $13 billion per year from 2007 to 2013.

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