A group that promotes offshore energy exploration has been trying to convince the public with a series of panel discussions that expanding it off the East Coast would be safe and profitable.
The fourth meeting was held Tuesday in Raleigh at the state Museum of Natural Sciences, with more than 100 people attending. Speakers included Abigail Ross Hopper, director of the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, plus industry and environmental advocates.
The meetings, which have also been in Virginia, South Carolina and Georgia, are organized by the Consumer Energy Alliance, a group supported by oil and gas interests.
Michael Whatley, CEA executive vice president, said afterward that his challenge is to convince communities and states that drilling can be done safely and bring huge payoffs in revenue-sharing with states. He said there is a small percentage of activists whose opposition shouldn’t be the only voice heard.
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Whatley said proponents of exploration hope that opportunities will expand. A five-year plan that begins in 2017 would, if approved by Congress, schedule 14 potential lease sales in eight areas around the country, including one in an area that includes North Carolina.
Sierra Weaver, an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center who was on the panel, said business owners and coastal residents worry that energy exploration could be harmful, especially if there is a big spill.
An earlier version of this story incorrectly said the meeting was held at the Department of Environmental Quality headquarters. It was in the Nature Resource Center of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, which is in the same building.