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Debate Continues Over Offshore Drilling

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RALEIGH — The possibility of a new hole in the ground is getting a lot of attention in North Carolina. Chevron USA announced Tuesday it will submit plans for an exploratory oil well off the Carolina coast.

Before any drilling begins, the company must answer a long list of questions. Seven years ago a state advisory committee turned down the Mobil proposal, saying that exploratory drilling plans near North Carolina waters was inconsistent with state coastal policy.

Now Chevron USA wants to drill in the same area, 45 miles northeast of Cape Hatteras. David Duplantier, attorney for Chevron, says they expect a 'yes' from this advisory committee, but they don't expect to find much for their efforts.

"Yes, it is very low." Chevron attorney David Duplantier said. "The most likely thing that will happen is that we will drill the exploratory well, and then we will be gone.

One committee member, Alton Ballance of Ocracoke Island, says even the remote possibility that commercial deposits of oil and natural gas could be found is what has him concerned about Chevron's plans.

"I'd like to see exactly what they had to offer in that area," committee member Alton Ballance said. "Its more of an issue that my mind has pretty well made up, as it was back in the early 90's about the mobile issue."

The state turned down Mobil Oil's plan in 1991 due to concerns about the environment and the impact on undersea life. Chevron officials say their operations near other states such as Florida are models of good corporate citizenship.

"They have had increased employment, and more importantly they have not experienced an environmental impact," Duplantier said.

"It's more in the national interest to leave things alone," Ballance countered. "It's obviously in the national interest because so many thousands visit there every year."

If approved, Chevron will drill a hole eight inches around in nearly 15,000 feet deep water, nearly 45 miles from Cape Hatteras.

Chevron hopes to begin the project by the year 2000.

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Rick Armstrong, Reporter
Rick Armstrong, Photographer
MJ Ainsley, Web Editor

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