State and federal government officials met in a private workshop on Thursday to talk about the potential for offshore energy development off the North Carolina coast. The reason it was not open to the public, as Dome recently reported, was ostensibly to prevent the appearance of influence on permit application reviews currently underway by the federal government.
So, the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources explained at the time, attendance would be limited to agencies and elected officials. But actually, representatives of three associations whose membership includes the oil and gas industry were included on the agenda and attended.
Six environmental advocacy organizations in a letter objected that the Center for Offshore Safety, the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce and the Consumer Energy Alliance were allowed to attend.
Asked about it afterward, DENR Secretary John Skvarla said the decision to close the session was made collectively by the state and federal agencies involved.
“This is going to be a long process,” Skvarla said. “There’s going to be plenty of time for stakeholder involvement, and the process will be done right.”
State Rep. Pricey Harrison, a Democrat from Greensboro who attended, said she didn’t think the content of the meeting justified it being closed.
Gov. Pat McCrory spoke briefly at the end of the meeting, which was open to reporters at his request, he said. McCrory and Skvarla answered reporters’ questions after the meeting ended.
The governor, who is chairman of the Outer Continental Shelf Governors Coalition, said he was anxious to begin offshore exploration to determine if there are enough oil supplies to provide significant revenue for the state. Once that is known, and environmental safeguards are assured, he said, the state can begin planning how to use that money.