Friday, February 3, 2023

Governor Roy Cooper voices his opposition to oil and gas drilling off North Carolina Coast

The federal government could start leasing off-shore property for use by oil rigs-similar to this one-off the North Carolina coast. This particular rig is on federally controlled property on the West Coast.
The federal government could start leasing off-shore property for use by oil rigs-similar to this one-off the North Carolina coast. This particular rig is on federally controlled property on the West Coast.

NORTH CAROLINA — Governor Roy Cooper’s administration today came out in full opposition to drilling for oil and natural gas off the coast of North Carolina.

In a letter sent to the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management by Cooper, as well as one sent by state Department of Environmental Quality Secretary Michael Regan, the administration notes opposition from residents at public hearings, a coastline not entirely conducive to oil and drilling and a tourist-driven economy among its reason to oppose leasing oil and gas rights off the coast.

Read Cooper’s and Regan’s letters here.

“Because offshore drilling threatens North Carolina’s critical coastal industries and unique coastal environment with limited benefits for our citizens, it is a bad deal for North Carolina,” Gov. Cooper wrote in the letter. “Accordingly, I ask that you respect the wishes of our state and maintain in the new OCS Leasing Plan the current prohibition of oil and gas drilling off North Carolina’s coast.”

The Governor had already opposed oil and gas drilling. That happened last month when the administration opposed seismic testing.

The first DEQ hearing on oil and gas exploration and drilling was held in Wilmington in early August. But some public opposition had started to form at earlier public forums about seismic testing.

According to a press release from Cooper’s office, coastal tourism generates $3 billion for the state each year. In addition, the administration said tourism supports more than 30,000 jobs in the state.

“Commercial fishing also brings in hundreds of millions of dollars to the state every year,” the release states. “North Carolina has over 300 miles of coastline, 2.3 million acres of estuarine waters, and over 10,000 miles of estuarine shoreline.”

Regan’s letter echoes those statements, but also notes any oil and gas drilling off the coast will be subject to North Carolina laws. Specifically, he cites the federally approved Coastal Management Act Program, first adopted in the 1970s.

“It’s the objective of the North Carolina Division of Coastal Management to manage the State’s coastal resources to ensure that proposed federal activities are compatible with safeguarding and perpetuating the biological, social, economic, and aesthetic values of the State’s coastal waters,” Regan wrote.

The state began following the program in 1974. In 1979, the General Assembly adopted coastal energy policies and, in 2016, amended the act to “incorporate elements of the policies into law,” Regan wrote. Likewise, Regan wrote that exploration and development would fall under both the North Carolina Oil Pollution and Hazardous Substance Control Act and the North Carolina Environmental Policy Act and the Mining Act.

Regan’s letter also touches on what he describes as “narrow geological plays (potential oil fields) with unstable slides. In addition, the depth of water and “distance to existing oil infrastructure negates many of the typical benefits of oil development.”

“The potential environmental damage and adverse impact on the coastal zone far outweigh the potential for discovery of oil and gas,” Regan wrote. “The estimates for oil and gas off North Carolina’s coast are small when compared to other areas off the United State’s coast.”

Additional reading:

Activists gather in Sunset Beach to oppose seismic blasting

Hearings set for potential offshore oil and gas activities off North Carolina coast

As the debate over offshore drilling heats up, what’s at stake?

Meet the man who wants to bring offshore oil and gas exploration to North Carolina


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