The southeast took another step toward developing offshore energy resources on Feb. 14, as Gov. Pat McCrory, along with Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina and Gov. Bob McDonnell of Virginia, signed a letter addressed to U.S. Secretary of Interior nominee Sally Jewel.
“As governors,” the letter reads, “we strive to pursue policies that create jobs and make energy more affordable while protecting our state’s natural resources. … It is estimated that energy production from the Atlantic OCS could -create more than 140,000 new jobs within the next 20 years, and we hope you will ensure that the Administration is a partner with the states on this issue.”
This letter comes while Senate Bill 76, the Domestic Energy Jobs Act, is making its way through state legislation. In an email update, Sen. Bill Rabon, N.C. District 8, Brunswick, Bladen, New Hanover and Pender counties said SB 76 would authorize the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Mining and Energy Commission to begin issuing permits for shale gas exploration and development on March 15, 2015 — five months after safety and regulatory -standards are scheduled to be in place.
The bill also implements a 1-percent state severance tax on shale gas resources that will increase to 6 percent by 2020 as an incentive for energy companies to hire workers and begin production. Revenues from the tax would fund NCDENR’s oil and gas regulatory program, create a $10 million energy planning and management fund and contribute to the North Carolina General Fund.
These measures have been met with opposition from some state residents due to the potential for negative environmental consequences.
“We are strongly opposed to the bills for a number of reasons,” said Dave Rogers, field director for Environment North Carolina.
Rogers said SB 76 puts some of the state’s most vulnerable ecosystems at risk, has provisions that accelerate the allowance of fracking — a process he said he believes cannot be conducted without risk of contaminating local water supplies — and puts the interests of oil and natural gas companies above those of North Carolina citizens.
Members of Environment North Carolina were pleased when McCrory wrote a letter to the Bureau of Energy Management announcing his support of offshore wind development, but have been disappointed that he has mostly left the topic alone since then, shifting his focus to oil and natural gas exploration instead.
“It leads us to be more dependent on dirty energy sources,” Rogers said. “Given the delicate nature of places like the Outer Banks, if anything was to happen in North Carolina, like the BP oil spill, it would just devastate our local communities. We think there’s a much greater potential to create jobs with wind and solar. That’s the energy of the future.”