A coalition of corporate, energy and agriculture leaders presented a report Monday projecting that North Carolina could eventually reap $577 million a year from offshore drilling along the state's coast.
Members of the Southeast Energy Alliance made their case for drilling as lawmakers try to cope with a nosedive in state revenue.
"States along the Gulf Coast already get this money," said Larry Wooten, president of the N.C. Farm Bureau. "Why shouldn't we?"
The group's dollar figures, though, depend on the accuracy of federal estimates of oil and natural gas deposits and whether corporations choose to drill off the North Carolina coast.
"Any revenue estimates are wishful thinking under any scenario," said Molly Diggins, state director of the Sierra Club. "Nobody knows if North Carolina has commercially recoverable deposits off the coast."
The alliance contends that offshore drilling eventually could create 6,700 jobs and boost the state's economy.
The federal government is moving toward allowing new drilling leases, but states would have to agree to allow drilling off their coasts. Gulf states currently share royalties from federal leases, but the figures are modest: about $25 million shared among four states last year. (N&O)