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Gas search along coast is pushed

Foxx is among GOP co-sponsors of bill to allow natural-gas exploration
By Mary M. Shaffrey JOURNAL WASHINGTON BUREAU

WASHINGTON

A bill supported by four of the seven Republicans in North Carolina’s congressional delegation could open the Outer Banks to natural-gas exploration.

The representatives – Virginia Foxx, R-5th; Patrick McHenry, R-10th; Sue Myrick, R-9th; and Charles Taylor, R-11th – are co-sponsors of legislation that would immediately lift the federal moratorium on natural-gas exploration along the Outer Continental Shelf.

"I think that it is not right for us to ignore natural resources that we have that could reduce energy prices," Foxx said.

She added that not exploring for natural gas would be "irresponsible."

Under the provisions of the bill, which is being sponsored by Rep. John Peterson, R-Pa., the state boundary would be extended from three miles to 20 miles. All federal water beyond the 20-mile boundary would immediately be eligible for natural-gas exploration. The bill does not have any provisions for oil drilling.

The bill was first introduced last year, but it has drawn more attention in recent weeks because of rising energy costs. The House Resources Committee has pledged to hold hearings soon on various drilling proposals, although a committee spokesman would not comment on whether the Peterson bill would be among them.

The North Carolina members’ support was news to the state chapter of the Sierra Club. Molly Diggins, the director of the North Carolina Sierra Club, said she was disappointed.

"North Carolina has enjoyed strong political leadership, especially from Gov. (Mike) Easley and Sen. (Elizabeth) Dole on this, and we would be sorry to see members of the delegation fall prey to this rash idea," Diggins said, noting that she was surprised to see any North Carolina support for the proposal.

Easley, a Democrat, and Dole, a Republican, have opposed other proposals to open the region to offshore exploration, citing environmental and economic concerns. (more…)