Stark differences in Gale and Catlin's approach to environmental issues

Oct 19, 2012

The environment took center stage during last night’s State House District 20 Candidate Forum in the WHQR Gallery. 

As WHQR’s Rachel Lewis Hilburn reports, Democrat Tom Gale and Republican Rick Catlin displayed flagrant divides on the issues of fracking and terminal groins.

Republican Candidate Rick Catlin says he’s been working with natural gas companies to build the first compressed natural gas station for cars.  And fracking, says Catlin, has been a successful venture in Pennsylvania. 

“I strongly promote natural gas as a fuel source.  It’s half price and it’s a very low impact on the environment.” 

But the likelihood of energy producers lining up to drill in North Carolina, he says, is minimal – because of limited availability and the state’s complicated geology. 

“I do not have a problem for North Carolina to put together a set of rules and regulations and controls for the ultimate day when we do use that.  And I think we’ve got plenty of time to do it though.” 

“I do have concerns about fracking.” 

That’s Democratic Candidate Tom Gale. 

“I think that they have kind of rushed to push legislation through currently...  I think that our current legislature has done a ready, fire, aim mentality.  And I think that we need to do a little bit more research before we jump into it with both feet.” 

The two candidates also land at opposite ends of the spectrum on whether terminal groins – hardened structures to control sand flow and beach erosion – should be permitted in the state. 

As a coastal engineer, Catlin says terminal groins are a reasonable compromise.  And the first one proposed at Figure Eight Island wouldn’t even be in the water. 

“The one at Figure Eight Island won’t have any environmental consequences that I’m aware of.” 

But Tom Gale isn’t so sure. 

“Well, there are actually bird habitats that will be affected.  They nest on those natural areas… so it will impact the wildlife.”  Gale also questions whether a hardened structure would accomplish its intended purpose.