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Energy & Environment

McCrory, Kure Beach Commissioner Take Offshore Drilling Debate To Washington

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The debate over what offshore drilling would mean for North Carolina played out before a U.S. House subcommittee Wednesday. In the red corner, North Carolina's governor. In the blue corner, a commissioner from a small beach town.

  The Obama administration has taken a baby step toward allowing drilling for oil and natural gas off the Atlantic coast. The proposal would require drilling to be at least 50 miles offshore.

Governor Pat McCrory told the U.S. House subcommittee that's too far out.

"That 50-mile buffer right now unnecessarily puts much of North Carolina's most accessible and undiscovered resources, frankly, under lock and key," he said.

McCrory said as much as 40 percent of North Carolina's potential offshore resources would be out of play. He's in favor of offshore exploration because of the jobs and revenue it could create as long as it doesn't hurt the environment.

Emilie Swearingen said the risk of that is too large.

"Please, listen to the people in this country who are begging you not to destroy their quality of life," she said to the subcommittee.

Swearingen is a commissioner in Kure Beach, which is near Wilmington and has about 2,000 year-round residents.

She told the subcommittee that only six or so people usually show up for Kure Beach council meetings. But at a meeting last year, more than 300 showed up to protest the mayor's support for offshore energy exploration.

"Spilled oil is nearly impossible to clean up entirely," she said. "What remains stays in the environment, causing harm for years and years."

Swearingen is also worried about tourism and the industrialization of scenic beaches.

The administration says the proposal won't be finalized before next year.