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Many Coastal Residents Are Open to Offshore Drilling, Survey Finds

Recent surveys of residents in six coastal states -- California, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida -- found that many would favor offshore drilling for oil and natural gas if their states had more control over offshore areas and received a large portion of the royalty revenue from the production.

The surveys, which included interviews with 600-800 residents in each of the six states, were conducted by MWR Strategies from May 24 to June 10 and were sponsored by the American Gas Association (AGA), the American Iron and Steel Institute and the Industrial Energy Consumers of America. The results were released last week by the AGA, which represents 195 local natural gas utilities serving 56 million customers.

"Consumers are clearly very concerned about the high price of energy, and the magnitude of public support for offshore energy production might surprise a number of elected officials," said AGA President David Parker. "About two-thirds of those surveyed said energy conservation was a good start, but that additional energy production is needed in the United States."

The survey found that more than 50% of the respondents in California and Florida and between 66% and 69% of the respondents in the other states said they would be "more likely" to support offshore drilling if their states had more control over offshore areas and received a large portion of the production revenues.

About 70% of the respondents in each of the six states indicated that natural gas and oil can be found and produced safely and in an environmentally sensitive way from offshore waters.

Most respondents (about 60%) indicated that production should be allowed between zero and 80 miles offshore. (Respondents were not told that the visual distance to the horizon is 12.5 nautical miles.)

The surveys consisted of interviews with 600 registered voters in Georgia, 600 in South Carolina, 600 in North Carolina, 600 in Virginia, 800 in Florida, and 800 in California. The margin of error for 600 interviews is 4%. The margin of error for 800 interviews is 3.5%.

However, the surveys may be too late to influence the decisionmaking process on possibly opening up some of the areas currently under drilling moratoria. After being pressured by Florida's senators, the chief members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee agreed late Tuesday to oppose any effort to weaken the moratorium on drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) off the coast of Florida or to open up Lease 181 in the eastern Gulf of Mexico (see related story).

For more information about the findings of the survey, go to http://www.aga.org.

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