McCrory’s push for energy exploration leaves public drilling for the truth

McCrory’s push for energy exploration leaves public drilling for the truth

- in Fitzsimon File

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The administration of Governor Pat McCrory blatantly misled environmental groups, the media, and the public last month about a meeting on offshore drilling that included state and federal officials and oil industry groups.

The administration announced a few weeks before the November 6th meeting in Raleigh that it would be closed to the media and environmental advocates even though government officials would be discussing the controversial issue of drilling for oil and natural gas off the state’s coastline.

Environmental groups protested with the N.C. Conservation Network sending a letter to McCrory objecting to the meeting being closed. A top official with McCrory’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources responded in writing, assuring the group that only public officials would be on hand.

“The meeting is by invitation only due in part to concerns raised by a participating federal agency. The inclusion of special interest groups and industry would allow for the potential of the appearance of influence on permit application reviews currently underway by the Obama Administration. Therefore, the joint decision was made to limit the invitation list to federal and state agencies and elected officials to avoid any potential for real or perceived conflicts of interest.”

No special interest or industry groups were going to participate to avoid conflicts of interest.  The meeting still should have been open but the DENR official was pretty clear about who was and who wasn’t invited.

But he was not telling the truth we know now thanks to a report by the Center for Public Integrity that was published in Time Magazine not long before the Thanksgiving holiday.  The story details how oil industry representatives were at the closed meeting and even participated on panel discussions with government officials.

The revelation that DENR wasn’t being truthful in the claims about the meeting was a small part of the Center’s overall report on the Outer Continental Shelf Governors Coalition, a group of Southern governors, chaired by McCrory.

The story reveals that much of the coalition’s staff work is done by a lobbying firm with close ties to the oil industry, not by folks who work for McCrory or any other governor in the group.

None of that is speculation. The Center’s report includes emails from McCrory spokesman Ryan Tronovich, one of them even asking the oil industry lobbying firm how to respond to questions posed by the Center’s reporter working on the story.

Tronovich first claimed that the staff for the governors did all the work and then when confronted with email evidence to the contrary, claimed that the lobbying firm was providing help like an intern.

Apparently McCrory’s staff often checks with interns for advice on how to respond to detailed questions about key policy issues from reporters.

Almost as disturbing as the false claims by the McCrory Administration officials and the hiding of the extent of the oil industry influence on the group McCrory chairs is the lack of attention the story published in Time has garnered in North Carolina.

Very few mainstream media outlets reported it even though it raises serious questions about the credibility of the McCrory Administration and its relationship to the fossil fuel industry.

The News & Observer did have an account of the story in its Under the Dome column and included comments from Tronovich who continued to claim that the staff work for the coalition was done by the governor’s office even though the Center’s report provided clear evidence that wasn’t true.

Tronovich also dismissed the substance of the story, calling the Center for Public Integrity a “left-wing organization” that published a “hatchet job.”

That’s absurd of course, but attacking the messenger is a common strategy when there are no facts to offer in defense of your position.

They promised the closed meeting on offshore drilling would not include oil industry officials but it did. They said the oil industry lobbying firm was not doing staff work for the McCrory-led coalition but emails show it clearly is.

That’s not left-wing spin. That is what’s happening in the McCrory Administration.

And worse still, they simply can’t seem to be able to tell us the truth about it.