Under the Dome

After criticism, next offshore energy workshop will be live-streamed

UPDATED After an outcry over a staff workshop on offshore energy exploration was closed to the public last year, the state has scheduled a second workshop that will be live-streamed online.

There is no legal requirement to open the meeting to the public, as it doesn’t involve elected or appointed public officials. But environmentalists had previously criticized the state for going behind closed doors to hear industry representatives.

The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources says the informational workshop in Raleigh on Wednesday is once again meant for state and federal officials in the mid-Atlantic region. That’s what then-energy policy adviser (and now head of the department) Donald van der Vaart said in October when he explained that special interest and industry groups wouldn’t be allowed to attend.

But they did. Representatives of three associations whose membership includes the oil and gas industry were included on the agenda and attended. DENR officials said the decision to close that meeting was made collectively by the public agencies involved, and that other viewpoints would be heard in subsequent meetings.

This time environmental groups have been invited: the state chapter of the Sierra Club, Environment North Carolina and Oceana. Others on the agenda include regulators and representatives of geophysical contractors, a wind technology firm, a deepwater oil and gas market consulting company and the U.S. Coast Guard.

The session will include discussions on wind energy, seismic surveying, spill prevention and response and socioeconomic impacts.

The workshops are part of a plan by the Outer Continental Shelf Governors Coalition to promote offshore exploration as a means of revenue sharing for coastal states. Gov. Pat McCrory is the current chairman.

The Center for Public Integrity, an investigative journalism organization, and Time magazine jointly published a story in November saying the governors’ coalition draws on the research and resources of an energy lobbying company acting on behalf of an oil industry-funded advocacy group. McCrory’s office said the governor relies on DENR for his information on energy policy.

Fifteen national environmental organizations complained about the closed-door meeting in Raleigh on Nov. 6.

Update: Here’s the link to the webcast: http://www.livestream.com/naturalsciences