It was the first in a series of WHQR Candidate Forums. Last night, the focus was on the six people vying for seats on the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners. Members of a live studio audience in the WHQR Gallery asked questions of the candidates – including – as WHQR’s Rachel Lewis Hilburn reports – whether North Carolina’s coastal waters should be open to alternative energy exploration.
“What is your opinion of offshore drilling for us in this area?”
Republican candidate Derrick Hickey says it’s not an issue that would come before the New Hanover County Board. In some ways, says Derrick Hickey, the consideration of offshore drilling can be compared to the state’s current exploration of fracking.
“It’s a bipartisan committee that’s going to study the issue and ensure that if we proceed along this path, that we proceed in an environmentally friendly way. And I think ultimately, everyone here can agree that our coastal community is too important to risk and that if we can’t do it with absolute certainty, we shouldn’t do it.”
Democrat Jonathan Barfield disagrees with the notion that it’s not a county issue. The county has a lobbyist in Washington, says Barfield and shouldn’t back away from influencing policy related to the North Carolina coast.
“For me I would say that I’m totally against offshore drilling here. Looking at what happened in the Gulf with BP and the dramatic, terrible, consequences that happened on that coastline. Animals lost their lives. The economy suffered greatly because of one spill. You know, we may not set the policy, but we can indeed influence it.”
But Republican Woody White says the bad experience of BP shouldn’t control the future of American energy independence.
“We have to break the stranglehold that foreign countries have on our energy in America. We have to become emancipated from that. Part of a comprehensive energy plan that I hope our national leaders will adopt includes safe offshore drilling everywhere. It’s going on in many parts of the world safely.”