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BOEM Defends 50-Mile Buffer

RALEIGH – Barring offshore drilling rigs within 50 nautical miles of the Southeast coast would provide an environmental buffer, accommodate the needs of the military and commercial fishing and give potential wind farms room to develop, the director of the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, or BOEM, said yesterday at an energy conference in Raleigh.

Abigail Ross Hopper defended the 50-mile buffer included in the proposed Atlantic offshore leasing plan less than a week after Gov. Pat McCrory complained in congressional testimony that the buffer puts much of the state’s offshore oil and natural gas reserves off limits. McCrory has asked BOEM to allow drilling as close as 30 miles from the N.C. coast.

Hopper told the News & Observer of Raleigh after her speech that the proposed drilling buffer would be by far the widest off-limits exclusion zone in the country. With the exception of a 25-nautical mile drilling restriction in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska, there are no buffers imposed in federal offshore drilling zones, Hopper said.

“One of the reasons we proposed a 50-mile buffer is to allow an area for renewable energy,” she told the newspaper. “It makes sense for each to have its own space to develop.”

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The story was compiled by staff members of Coastal Review Online.