Public excluded, industry invited to North Carolina oil drilling meeting
WASHINGTON, D.C. – A coalition of fifteen environmental and public interest groups expressed serious objections to President Obama’s closed-door meeting to discuss energy exploration on the Outer Continental Shelf off the mid-Atlantic coast. The meeting was convened by the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources and held in Raleigh, North Carolina, November 6.
In their letter to the president, the groups chastised the administration for a lack of transparency and stakeholder access, citing that attendees included groups with ties to the oil and gas industry but neither the public nor environmental groups were invited. Reporters were only allowed to attend the end of the meeting to hear remarks by Governor McCrory, who expressed support for the expansion of oil and natural gas exploration off the North Carolina coast.
However, many citizens are concerned about the potential damage that offshore exploration and drilling will have on their environment and economy.
“Clean coastal waters generate a significant percentage of the jobs and economic well-being in our Atlantic coast states,” said Richard Charter, Senior Fellow with The Ocean Foundation. “To now explicitly exclude members of the public so that state officials could discuss offshore drilling with the petroleum industry and the Obama administration in private reveals an indefensible lapse in the fundamental values at the core of our democracy.”
In response to a letter from environmental groups requesting an audience at the meeting, the North Carolina Department of Energy and Natural Resources stated that the meeting was “strictly informational and educational,” and limited to federal and state agencies and elected officials in order to “avoid any potential for real or perceived conflicts of interest.”
“This meeting was a déjà vu for those who remember the closed-door secrecy and fossil fuel bias of the Bush-Cheney Energy Task Force,” said Friends of the Earth Climate campaigner Marissa Knodel. “Holding a public meeting in a public venue to discuss the potential development of public resources — in a room that is closed to the public but open to industry — is disingenuous and undemocratic.”
The letter requests that the Obama Administration and taxpayer-funded federal agencies stay true to their promise to maintain transparency through stakeholder input regarding offshore energy development by refusing to participate in closed meetings about energy development of public resources.