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McCrory pushing for approval to drill offshore

By John Murawski
jmurawski@charlotteobserver.com

DURHAM - N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory has begun working with a coalition of governors from coastal states to press the Obama Administration to allow exploration of offshore energy resources, particularly oil and natural gas.

McCrory described his involvement with the Outer Continental Shelf Governors Coalition at an energy conference Wednesday organized by the N.C. Chamber, the state's influential business lobbying organization. Offshore drilling in federal waters is dependent on federal permitting, a process that has stalled in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon blowout and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico three years ago.

McCrory said he continues to promote his "all of the above" approach to energy, endorsing such options as shale gas exploration as well as offshore wind farms. But he also said the time is approaching for a hard look at the social costs subsidizing renewable energy resources like solar and wind, with the ultimate goal of phasing out those subsidies.

"We have got to get into the exploration business in North Carolina," said McCrory, a former Charlotte mayor who previously worked for Duke Energy. "We're reeling from sitting on the sidelines for the past decade, which we should have never done."

McCrory said he's the vice-chairman of the offshore coalition of eight coastal states, which includes Alaska, Texas, Virginia and South Carolina. The group's goal is to persuade the feds "to let us at least explore what's there" and arrive at reliable estimates of offshore oil and gas potential.

Offshore leasing is off the table through 2017 but the coastal states are working to persuade federal authorities to inlcude leasing in the five-year plan through 2022. The states also want to begin seismic testing of ocean bottoms, which is opposed by some environmental orginzations that say the testing causes explosions that are harmful to whales and marine life.

McCrory, the first North Carolina governor to join the two-year-old governors coalition, has attended a handful of meetings and offered few other details on his work with the organization.

North Carolina is currently writing rules to allow inland shale gas drilling, sometimes referred to a fracking, for natural gas in a relatively limited area concentrated in Lee, Moore and Chatham counties.

McCrory has in the past embraced offshore wind farm development as well. On Wednesday, however, he told the N.C. Chamber that the state needs a long-term assessment of the return-on-investment of renewable subsidies.

"At what point in time do the subsidies decelerate, end or decrease?" he said. "One of North Carolina's recruitment selling points is our low energy costs."

Households currently pay less than 50 cents a month for renewable energy produced by Charlotte-based Duke Energy and Raleigh-based Duke Energy Progress.

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