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fr jimdavisTwo candidates battling for the state Senate seat representing the seven western counties are heading into the homestretch of what could be a close and hard-fought race.

It was back to school for a group of staunch fracking opponents on Friday, Sept. 5. The corner conference room in the Jackson County Public Library was a bit small for the 20 people crammed in to it, but they were ready to learn. 

A walk through the parking lot was all that was necessary to see that a diverse crowd had gathered to hear what the group of panelists N.C. Sen. Jim Davis, R-Franklin, had assembled had to say about fracking. Cars outside the Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts in Franklin sported bumper stickers promoting everything from gun rights to local foods, their owners pouring into the auditorium by the hundreds to settle into self-assigned pro- and anti-fracking seating blocks. 

cover 330 200Anyone who’s read a newspaper, turned on a TV or listened to chitchat in a grocery store sometime over the last six months has probably heard about North Carolina’s impending foray into the world of natural gas exploration. At the end of May, the state legislature passed a bill to lift a statewide moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, for fossil fuels. And in July, the Mining and Energy Commission released a draft set of rules to govern the industry. 

SEE ALSO: WNC shale gas study cancelled
Fracking panel draws crowd in FranklinFracking opponents prepare for battle

Depending who you ask, that document contains either the strictest regulations of any of the 34 states that allow the practice, or a joke specially designed to favor industry and render citizens powerless. 

The rules document covers a lot of ground in its 105-page span, but some sections are especially adept at drawing out praise from supporters and criticism from opponents.

In a last-minute turnaround, North Carolina lawmakers wrapped up their short session last week with passage of a bill granting Evergreen Packaging’s paper mill in Canton $12 million for natural gas upgrades.

fr evergreenA bill that would provide a $12 million incentive package to the Evergreen Packaging paper mill in Canton failed to garner enough votes from the state House.

“I did my best — that’s all I can say,” said Rep. Michelle Presnell, R-Haywood, on Tuesday afternoon. 

fr teacherraisesIt took nearly two months of conferencing, but a state budget bill is finally passed and signed. At the heart of that drawn-out process was education funding. Specifically, what state Republicans are hailing as the largest raise in history for North Carolina teachers.

A challenger in the Haywood County commissioner race lost ground last week in a fight with the county over his property values, a three-year dispute laced with political overtones.

Denny King claims the county incorrectly pegged the value of his home and land, which in turn determines his property tax bill. King has accused the county of mass errors in a countywide property revaluation conducted in 2011, a criticism that is a cornerstone of his campaign for county commissioner.

Swain County recently passed a resolution in opposition to fracking. “Are you familiar with what fracking is?” asked Swain County Commissioner Steve Moon. “That’s why we’re opposed to it.”

The North Carolina Mining and Energy Commission has scheduled a public hearing on fracking for Western North Carolina. The hearing is slated for Sept. 12 on the Western Carolina University campus in Cullowhee.

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