US politician presses wrong button and accidentally legalises fracking
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, a pollution-heavy method of extracting natural gas from the ground.
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."
Mr Tillis told the press he was comfortable with the outcome of the vote.
"There's a green button and a red button – they should know which one to push," he said.
Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is the high-pressure injection of millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals into a well in order to fracture the shale below ground, freeing pockets of gas.
It allows energy firms to tap deposits that were previously unreachable by conventional mining. But environmental campaigners say the chemicals used contaminate the surrounding water supply.