Burr, Etheridge differ on drilling

May 7, 2010 4:15:52 PM PDT
Politicians are notoriously careful in how they choose their words. But on the issue of oil drilling, the differences of opinion between Senator Richard Burr, (R) North Carolina and Congressman Bob Etheridge, (D) Lillington are clear.

Each would chart a different course for drilling off North Carolina's coast. In interviews with ABC11 Friday, both were forthcoming in their different approaches.

Etheridge is skeptical.

"Anything that's man made can create some real problems and this is a huge challenge," he said.

Burr is a vocal advocate.

"I think new fields are absolutely essential," he said.

Burr's position is most drilling operations don't go wrong. And, he offers Hurricane Katrina to make his point.

"What we had was over 3000 rigs that made it through it with little to no leakage," said Burr.

But while Burr talks of the upside, Etheridge focuses on the potential downside - pointing to North Carolina's fragile coastal ecosystem.

"That makes it very difficult to be able to support drilling in the most fragile areas we have," he said.

Both agree that if drilling is allowed off North Carolina's coast, then safety must be addressed. But neither had a good answer for what safety should mean if there are no guarantees a spill won't happen.

When pressed, both men slipped back into nuance.

"Sounds like you're leaning against it at this point," ABC11 reporter Jon Camp asked Etheridge.

"It's tough right now," he replied.

"I think there's still a lot of questions that have to have answers," said Burr.

One thing is certain. The spill on the Gulf Coast will continue to shape the conversation about drilling in North Carolina.

As that conversation happens, there are a couple other things to consider.

What about revenue sharing? Would North Carolina get any money from off-shore drilling? It's not clear right now.

In Virginia, the governor is pushing aggressively for drilling. That could have financial and environmental implications for North Carolina.

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