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The Latest: Environment chief speaks at anti-drilling rally

February 27, 2018

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The Latest on the federal government’s only scheduled public meeting in North Carolina on a proposal to expand oil and gas exploration off the Atlantic coast and in other waters (all times local):

7:15 p.m.

North Carolina’s environment secretary says people from both sides of the political aisle are united against a proposal to expand offshore drilling off the Atlantic coast.

Michael Regan spoke Monday evening to several hundred energized opponents to the Trump administration’s draft plan at the Raleigh hotel where the federal government held a public meeting to seek input.

Regan’s boss is Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, who has threatened to sue unless North Carolina’s coastal waters are removed from the five-year proposal.

Dare County Commission Chairman Bob Woodard is a Republican who also spoke at the rally. Woodard criticized the Interior Department for failing to hold public hearings in coastal communities that could be most affected by the expansion plan. Woodard says the Outer Banks has nothing to gain and everything to lose with the potential environmental damage a spill could cause.

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4:12 p.m.

Boosters of the oil and natural gas industry in North Carolina say opening more waters off the Atlantic coast to energy exploration would lead to good-paying jobs and more government revenues.

The head of the North Carolina Petroleum Council and other supporters of offshore drilling expansion spoke Monday as a public meeting on the Trump administration’s five-year proposal began at a Raleigh hotel.

Several environmental groups fighting offshore exploration scheduled a rally at the hotel in the early evening. Speakers will include state environment Secretary Michael Regan. Gov. Roy Cooper and Attorney General Josh Stein also oppose the proposal, saying the risks to the state’s tourism and fishing industries are too great.

Former Fayetteville Mayor Nat Robertson supports the expansion effort. He says renewable energy should still be a top priority but the state should take advantage of other natural resources in the meantime.

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2:47 a.m.

The federal government’s only scheduled public meeting in North Carolina to discuss expanding oil and gas exploration off the Atlantic coast and in other waters is expected to attract busloads of people opposing the idea.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is holding local events across the country about a proposal by President Donald Trump’s administration to open more waters to drilling. The North Carolina meeting starts Monday afternoon at a Raleigh hotel.

Several environmental groups fighting expansion are helping bring residents from the Outer Banks, Wilmington and elsewhere to rally and to speak with agency representatives.

Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper is adamantly opposed to offshore drilling and has threatened litigation unless North Carolina is left out. Top state Republicans, including former Gov. Pat McCrory, generally have supported offshore expansion.

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