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WHQR will host and broadcast four candidate forums as part of the 2012 Election Season in the MC Erny Gallery, 254 N. Front Street, #300.Each forum will feature two local journalists asking prepared questions during the first half of the event. The second portion will be dedicated to questions from voters. A live studio audience will be invited to ask questions during this segment. We'll also use questions sent in from listeners.If you have a question for the candidates, please email us (newsdirector@whqr.org) or submit via Twitter with the #whqrforums hash tag and tell us which slate of candidates you'd like to address. We reserve the right to edit the questions for clarity, brevity, and objectivity. Each question must be addressed to all candidates in a particular race. If you can't attend the live event, Tweet along while you tune in or listen or watch the webcast online at 7 PM each night to hear the candidates! (WWAY will also broadcast the forums live on Time Warner Cable. RTV is channel 106, on ATMC, channel 903, on Charter Cable, channel 145 and over-the-air at 3.2.)Tuesday, Oct. 2, 7 PM- New Hanover County CommissionersJonathan Barfield (Current Vice Chairman)Beth DawsonRobert MurrayDr. Derrick HickeyWoody WhiteRob Zapple Thursday, Oct. 4, 7 PM- NC House District 18Representative Susi Hamilton (D)Louis Harmati (R) Monday, Oct. 8, 7 PM - NC Senate District 9Senator Thom Goolsby (R)Deb Butler (D) Thursday, Oct. 18, 7 PM - NC House District 19 & NC House District 20 NC House District 19Ted Davis, Jr. (Current NHC Commission Chair)Emilie Swearingen (Current Kure Beach Councilwoman)NC House District 20Rick Catlin (Current NHC Commissioner) (R)Tom Gale (D)

Stark differences in Gale and Catlin's approach to environmental issues

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The environment took center stage during last night’s State House District 20 Candidate Forum in the WHQR Gallery.  As WHQR’s Rachel Lewis Hilburn reports, Democrat Tom Gale and Republican Rick Catlin displayed flagrant divides on the issues of fracking and terminal groins.

Republican Candidate Rick Catlin says he’s been working with natural gas companies to build the first compressed natural gas station for cars.  And fracking, says Catlin, has been a successful venture in Pennsylvania. 

“I strongly promote natural gas as a fuel source.  It’s half price and it’s a very low impact on the environment.” 

But the likelihood of energy producers lining up to drill in North Carolina, he says, is minimal – because of limited availability and the state’s complicated geology. 

“I do not have a problem for North Carolina to put together a set of rules and regulations and controls for the ultimate day when we do use that.  And I think we’ve got plenty of time to do it though.” 

“I do have concerns about fracking.” 

That’s Democratic Candidate Tom Gale. 

“I think that they have kind of rushed to push legislation through currently...  I think that our current legislature has done a ready, fire, aim mentality.  And I think that we need to do a little bit more research before we jump into it with both feet.” 

The two candidates also land at opposite ends of the spectrum on whether terminal groins – hardened structures to control sand flow and beach erosion – should be permitted in the state. 

As a coastal engineer, Catlin says terminal groins are a reasonable compromise.  And the first one proposed at Figure Eight Island wouldn’t even be in the water. 

“The one at Figure Eight Island won’t have any environmental consequences that I’m aware of.” 

But Tom Gale isn’t so sure. 

“Well, there are actually bird habitats that will be affected.  They nest on those natural areas… so it will impact the wildlife.”  Gale also questions whether a hardened structure would accomplish its intended purpose.