A judge has halted the approval of gas drilling operations in North Carolina until a higher court weighs in on the legality of the appointment of several boards that manage state resources and the environment.
Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens’ decision earlier this month prevents the Mining and Energy Commission from approving drilling units for hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” until the state Supreme Court decides a separate case regarding how the state panels are formed. No drilling units had been approved before the judge issued his order.
Stephens issued a preliminary injunction that stops the commission from accepting or processing applications for drilling units. He also delayed proceedings in the lawsuit filed against the state’s Mining and Energy Commission pending the other case’s outcome.
The state’s highest court will hear arguments in late June on the separate lawsuit by Gov. Pat McCrory and two of his predecessors that challenged how several other state commissions were appointed. A panel of judges sided with McCrory earlier this year in striking down the way lawmakers appointed those boards, and the decision was appealed to the high court.