RALEIGH, NC (WECT) - A New Hanover County member of the N.C. Energy Policy Council says he doesn't think offshore drilling will ever happen in the Atlantic Ocean off the North Carolina coast unless coastal counties share in the profits.
At the Energy Policy Council meeting Wednesday in Raleigh, Frank Gorham introduced a proposal that state lawmakers commit to share federal offshore oil revenues with the 20 coastal counties. Those communities could use the money for beach renourishment, wetlands restoration, or other needs, he explained.
"I've traveled the whole coast, and the number one thing I'm hearing is the coastal communities are seeing only a negative to offshore drilling," Gorham said, who is chair of the N.C. Coastal Resources Commission.
The Energy Council is a 13 member board of appointees that submits energy policy recommendations to the governor and General Assembly.
Gorham, who explained Texas and Louisiana set aside a large portion of their federal oil royalties for coastal communities, wants the N.C. legislature to agree to give half of any offshore revenue to the coastal counties, but drilling off North Carolina's coast is not imminent. Gorham estimates seismic testing could be allowed within the next year and a half, with the federal leasing for drilling following several years later.
Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, who serves as chair of the N.C. Energy Council, explained conversations have already started in the state regarding revenue sharing for onshore gas. He believes those talks will lead into discussions about offshore revenue.
Forest thinks the Council will be receptive to Gorham's proposal but said, "the reality of the situation is offshore drilling is really in the hands of the federal government right now. They hold all the cards to that discussion."
Gorham's proposal was sent to the Energy Council's exploration committee for consideration.
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