The Accidental Fracker – Stories from NC

Typically MDN does not cover the (plentiful) news about shale gas drilling in other parts of the US or even the world—unless the story has a direct bearing somehow on drilling in the Marcellus or Utica Shale. Or unless it’s about fracking technology/issues in general, which of course do have a bearing on Marcellus and Utica drilling.

But every now and again we’ll throw in a story for pure entertainment value. This time, it’s a story about North Carolina, where the fracking debate has heated up. The NC legislature recently voted to allow fracking. The Democrat governor, Bev Perdue, vetoed the legislation. And a vote was just taken to override her veto. The veto, we’re happy to report, has been overridden, and the deciding vote was cast by a Democrat who had campaigned against fracking—Becky Carney. It seems it was past Ms. Carney’s bedtime and she was so sleepy she hit the wrong voting button by mistake. Oops.

A US politician who campaigned against fracking – a controversial form of mining for gas – has accidentally legalised it in her state by pressing the wrong button in a late-night vote.

Becky Carney, a Democratic member of the North Carolina general assembly, had been a vocal critic of plans to allow hydraulic fracking…

Yet by pressing the green "aye" button at her desk rather than the red "no", she cast the deciding vote in favour of a Republican bid to override a veto on the practice by Bev Perdue, the Democratic governor.

"Oh my gosh," Ms Carney reportedly said on the assembly floor, after seeing her name flash up in the Republican column on a chamber TV screen after the 11.30pm poll. "It won’t let me change my vote." The 67-year-old Democrat, who has represented a Mecklenburg County constituency for 10 years, asked Thom Tillis, the Republican House Speaker, to allow her to change her vote, but he declined.

Members are permitted to change their votes only if the overall result is not altered, Mr Tillis happily pointed out. Republicans then used a procedural move to ensure the vote could not be reconsidered.

Ms Carney’s "yes" vote meant the result was 72-47 in favour of the Republican override – precisely the number they required. Without Ms Carney’s vote, the governor’s veto would have been sustained.

After the vote, Ms Carney said: "It is late … I feel rotten, and I feel tired."

She added: "I feel that mistakes are made constantly when people are tired."*

Lesson for Ms. Carney: Don’t vote on important legislation after it’s jammy time.

*Ireland The Independent/UK Telegraph (Jul 5, 2012) – US politician presses wrong button and accidentally legalises fracking