A bill which would legalize hydraulic fracturing—a practice that has been used to extract natural gas for decades—was passed by North Carolina’s House last week. The Senate previously approved a different version of the legislation than the one passed by the House. The updated version is pending approval by the Senate tomorrow.

Senate Bill 820, titled the Clean Energy and Economic Security Act, would sanction the use of hydraulic fracturing by mid-2014, consequently lowering energy costs across the state and creating a plethora of new jobs for North Carolinians.

Currently the oil and natural gas industry supports 135,165 well-paying jobs in North Carolina and has the potential to create many more if hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling are legalized. The average salary for non-gas station oil and natural gas employees is nearly $6,000 higher than the average annual salary across all industries in North Carolina. And, in total, the industry also contributes $11 million to the state’s economy. One look at these figures and it is no surprise that a March 2012 poll found 75 percent of North Carolina voters are in favor of the further development of U.S. oil and natural gas resources.

To understand how the state’s economy could benefit from hydraulic fracturing, North Carolinians should look to Texas and Pennsylvania’s experiences with this form of natural gas extraction. Mario Hernandez, president of the San Antonio Economic Development Foundation, conducted a study to measure the economic impact and projections of Eagle Ford Shale development. According to the study, the economic impact of this development was $20 billion in 2011—with the possibility of reaching $96 billion in the next decade. Additionally, the new industry created tens of thousands of jobs for Texans—38,000 in 2011. The study projects that by 2021 the Eagle Ford Shale will support more than 82,000 jobs. In Pennsylvania, utilization of hydraulic fracturing has generated more than $7 billion in taxes, royalties, lease payments, and fees in the state over the past five years.

If SB 820 passes the Senate, ATR encourages Gov. Perdue to ignore the fringe of the Democrat party and approve this much-needed legislation. The energy industry has been boon to the NC economy and could create even more jobs in the Tar Heel State if this bill is signed into law.