Energy exploration bill returns to NC Senate panel

Feb. 21, 2013 @ 04:19 PM

A North Carolina legislator is pushing back on arguments that a bill heading to the Senate floor accelerates the process for new underground natural gas exploration to begin.

The bill approved Thursday by the Senate Commerce Committee would allow state regulators to issue permits for horizontal drilling and fracking as early as March 2015.

The General Assembly already directed a state commission last year to complete rules for drilling and production by October 2014, but no permit start date was set.

Bill sponsor Sen. Buck Newton of Wilson said no one's speeding up the process. The bill now says state regulators aren't required to issue permits until the rules take effect.

Environmental groups said earlier this week there's no need to run the bill while regulations are being developed.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.