NC panel debates value of offshore energy exploration

Panel meeting on Tuesday in Raleigh. (WNCN)

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – An issue that has communities all across the North Carolina coast talking found its way to the state capital on Tuesday.

A panel, including state and federal leaders, met to discuss the future of offshore energy exploration.

It’s an issue that has some excited for the future – and others concerned for it.

“These are real people, real communities, real jobs that are at stake,” said Sierra Weaver of the Southern Environmental Law Center.

Some of those people impacted were at this meeting to discuss the prospects of offshore energy exploration in the Atlantic, including offshore drilling.

“Is it actually worth it?” said Wilmington resident Kevin Piacenza. “We just don’t feel like it’s the answer.”

“How do you drive economic success for the whole state?  This is the way to do that.  This is one of the ways to do that,” said Rep. Mike Hager, a Republican who is the House majority leader.

Opposing voices spoke inside the North Carolina Atlantic Energy Forum, which included the director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, a federal agency that has received permit applications to do seismic surveying in the Atlantic.

“It’s about balancing the economic potential that this energy development can bring, the environmental consequences, the environmental impacts,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, the BOEM director.

Long before any companies would drill in the Atlantic, there would be seismic testing done. Seismic testing involves sending sound waves through the ocean floor to see what lies beneath.

Should offshore drilling happen, the American Petroleum Institute says it could mean billions to the North Carolina economy and tens of thousands of new jobs.

“Let’s get all the data in.  Let’s see what the seismic testing says,” said Andy Radford of the American Petroleum Institute. “Let’s see where the resources might be.”

But more than two dozen North Carolina coastal communities feel otherwise.

They’ve opposed offshore drilling.

“There’s really no economic benefit that we could see that would even touch that the tourism and the pristine environment brings to our community,” said Monica Thibodeau, the mayor pro tem of Duck, a community on the Outer Banks near Nags Head.

Originally, some industry analysts believed North Carolina could see seismic testing for energy exploration as early as 2015.  That didn’t happen.  And right now, the timeline for when it would begin is unclear.

 

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