Hundreds attend public meeting on drilling off Carolinas

This 2010 file photo shows the Development Driller III, which is drilling the primary relief well, and the Helix Q4000, background left, the vessel being used to perform the static kill operation, at the site of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Louisiana.

WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH, N.C. — Hundreds of people have turned out for a public meeting sponsored by the federal government to gather comment on opening tracts off the coast of the Carolinas to oil and gas exploration.

In the first 90 minutes of a five-hour meeting on Tuesday in Wrightsville Beach more than 200 people turned out. That’s almost as many as earlier meetings in Norfolk, Virginia and Washington, D.C., combined.

The meeting allows Carolina residents to comment for the first time since the Obama administration last month said it was including Atlantic Ocean tracts in a draft proposal of areas that could be opened to oil and gas exploration later this decade.

The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is taking comments on what issues should be addressed in an environmental impact statement.