Offshore drilling debate comes to the east

CARTERET COUNTY, N.C. (WNCT) – The first of several public input sessions on the ability to pursue steps toward offshore drilling was held at the Crystal Coast Civic Center Wednesday night.

The room was so full of people looking to speak there was standing room only.

The topic of offshore drilling always brings controversy and Wednesday’s session was no different.

The Department of Environmental Quality is hosting this event in response to an executive order from President Donald Trump. The order would allow for the expansion of offshore drilling.

David McGowan spoke in support of the possibility to expand offshore drilling to include the North Carolina coast.

McGowan said, “This is the first step in an 8 to 10 year process, before we would ever see any type of drilling activity off our coast.”

McGowan said he believes offshore drilling could bring open doors for the state.

“We believe the North Carolina has a tremendous opportunity from an economic standpoint, from an energy security standpoint, even from a national security standpoint, to play a role in supporting our domestic energy revolution,” said McGowan.

McGowan said the United States produces 10 million barrels of oil a day but consumes nearly 20 million.

“We’re still importing a lot of product in many of that from places that don’t always have our best interest in mind,” said McGowan.

Supporters were met with strong opposition at the event from people like Larry Baldwin.

“More importantly, I’m here from a personal standpoint, and just what it means to protect this water,” said Baldwin. “This water is a resource it was given to us to take care of not to take advantage of.”

Baldwin recognized the meeting is just a preliminary step but says there no room for drilling along the Crystal Coast.

Baldwin said, “The process of figuring out where oil and gas is out here is going to have as much an impact as an oil spill could.”

Like many who spoke, Baldwin lives and works in Morehead City and said these waters mean too much to him to risk.

“You can throw the numbers out there that you want, you can throw all the numbers as to what the benefits are, the risk does not outweigh those benefits they really it’s not worth the risk,” said Baldwin.

This is the first of three public comment sessions.

The Department of Environmental Quality will compile all of the responses and ultimately decide whether or not to pursue further steps in what could be a decade’s long process.

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