85% of NC Energy And Mining Commission Members Flagged For Conflicts Of Interests
More than two years after the NC Energy and Mining Commission began writing new safety rules to govern fracking exploration in the state, the State Ethics Commission has flagged 12 of the 14 members as having potential conflicts of interest. These conflicts included energy stock investments, energy industry consulting work and land ownership in potentially fracking areas like Lee County. Instead of finishing these reviews at the outset of the commissions work, the Ethics Commission only completed the reviews months before the current Mining Commission will be retired. Not exactly the transparency that Governor McCrory promised.
More than two years into the task of writing the state’s fracking standards, all but two of the members of the N.C. Mining and Energy Commission have been flagged for a potential conflict of interest.
Chairman Vikram Rao received the 14 ethics evaluations from the State Ethics Commission last month and disclosed them Friday at the Mining and Energy Commission’s regular monthly meeting in Raleigh.
The potential conflicts for a dozen members of the Mining and Energy Commission – one of the state’s most polarizing government boards – include energy stock investments and energy consulting work. Also included: real estate ownership in Lee County, the epicenter of the state’s shale gas zone, where drilling could get underway as early as next year.
A potential conflict of interest does not disqualify a commissioner from sitting on a state board. It’s an alert issued to board members and the public of business interests and political ties that could compromise a commissioner’s judgment.
However, the State Ethics Commission flagged the potential problems not at the outset of the Mining and Energy Commission’s work, but after the fracking board had finished its primary task of writing the state’s safety rules for shale gas exploration.
The 124 fracking rules are scheduled for review by the Rules Review Commission next week, to be forwarded by Jan. 1 to the state legislature for final approval.
The lifespan of the Mining and Energy Commission has almost run its course. Under a state law passed this summer, the board is scheduled to dissolve on July 31 and will be replaced by a new Oil and Gas Commission to handle fracking permit reviews, variances, trade secrets and other requests.
When asked about the belated evaluations, which were issued Oct. 23, the State Ethics Commission’s executive director, Perry Newson, said the ethics commission is working on thousands of evaluations with limited staff.