The Department of the Interior’s first field hearing on energy development on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) was contentious to say the least. Several hundred people turned out for the event held yesterday at the Atlantic City, NJ, Convention Center.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar presided and listened to statements by New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine and several of the state’s congressmen, all opposed to oil and gas drilling, as well as from many anti-drilling activists who almost, but not quite, dominated the meeting.
Secretary Salazar hosted the first of four regional public meetings to gather information and public comment regarding an energy strategy for the Outer Continental Shelf [Photo Credit: Tami A. Heilemann DOI]
To me, this was no surprise since New Jersey is ground zero for East Coast opposition to drilling on the OCS. The crowd may have been decidedly different if the hearing had been held in, say, Charleston, SC, or Savannah, GA, or maybe even in Norfolk, VA. To be fair, Interior has also scheduled OCS field hearings in New Orleans, San Francisco and Anchorage.
In two of these locations, those in favor of oil and gas production on the OCS should be in the majority. But that was not the case in Atlantic City!
Those in favor of more domestic oil and gas production got their views in to be sure. Congressman Rob Bishop (R-UT), who serves on the House Natural Resources Committee, and former Congressman John Peterson (R-PA), were very eloquent in their support of more OCS access. But anti-fossil fuel activists and environmental groups made the most noise.
I was struck by the fact that all the industry and business people that spoke out used part of their allotted three minutes to state that they were for all energy options, including renewable and alternative energy. This is in contrast to opponents of energy development on the OCS. They are clearly against oil, natural gas, coal and nuclear energy. They are only for renewables, especially wind and solar.
What they do not, or refuse, to realize is that natural gas is part of the answer to our energy and climate challenges and can make more renewable energy possible. Revenues from natural gas production on the OCS could fund wind energy production on the OCS instead of tax payer dollars. And both the gas and the electricity produced could come to shore via the same undersea infrastructure.
This is a win-win scenario for our country and it is what I talked about during my three minutes at the microphone.