July 21, 2017
Cooper Vows to Lead Offshore Drilling FightBy Mark HibbsCoastal Review Online
Thursday by mayors of a half-dozen eastern North Carolina communities,
Gov. Roy Cooper cited the threat to the “robust coastal economy” from
proposed offshore drilling and seismic exploration for oil and natural
gas off the state’s coast and pledged to lead the renewed fight against
During an appearance at Fort Macon State Park, Cooper framed
his opposition in terms of protecting the state’s coastal environment
and economy that it supports from the “unacceptable risks” offshore
drilling and exploration could bring, risks that the governor said
would outweigh any benefits to the state.
“I can sum it up in
four words: not off our coast,” Cooper said to enthusiastic applause
from those gathered in the education and visitor center, including
representatives of various environmental groups, local officials and
others opposed to offshore drilling and seismic exploration.
have consulted with experts and we’ve examined carefully what we know
about this,” Cooper said. “It’s clear that opening North Carolina’s
coast to oil and gas exploration and drilling would bring unacceptable
risks to our economy, our environment and our coastal communities and
for little potential gain for our state.”
President Trump signed
an executive order in April aimed at removing restrictions on oil
drilling off the Atlantic and Alaskan coasts put in place during the
final months of the Obama administration. In June, the Trump
administration opened the public comment period for a new, five-year
energy leasing program for the outer continental shelf, a move toward
opening East Coast waters to oil and gas exploration and drilling. The
program for oil and gas development sets a schedule for proposed oil
and gas lease sales off the coast.
Public comments on the
proposed program continue to be accepted through Aug. 17. Friday is the
deadline for public comments on incidental harassment authorizations
during seismic surveys as required by the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
announcement Thursday marks a complete reversal for the executive
branch on state energy policy. His predecessor, Pat McCrory, had
championed offshore exploration even suggesting at one point that
drilling in state waters, those within 3 miles offshore, would be worth
While highlighting the threat to the coastal economy,
including the $3 billion generated annually by coastal tourism, the
more than 30,000 jobs it supports and the $95 million commercial
fishing industry, Cooper described the risk in personal terms.
grew up a few hours east of here in Nash County and, like many other
North Carolinians, I have wonderful memories of coming here with my
parents and my brother, staying up the road there at the John Yancey
Motor Hotel and, because it didn’t have a restaurant, walking over to
the Sea Hawk for breakfast that morning,” Cooper said, referring to the
former oceanfront lodging in Atlantic Beach that was renamed in 1993
and eventually closed.
The governor said the state park and
surrounding area are “steeped in history” with an unspoiled coastline
that he and others had long enjoyed.
“This place is part of who
I am, as it is for many of you, whether you grew up in this state or
the state attracted you to come and live here,” Cooper said. “Here in
North Carolina, it’s pretty clear that our coast is part of our
was a message similar to the one delivered by Atlantic Beach Mayor
Trace Cooper in his introduction of the governor. “I’m here to talk to
you today not just as mayor but also as a citizen of the coast and as a
businessperson. I own and operate businesses in both the hospitality
and real estate industries and, along with fishing, those are really
the pillars of our economy here on the coast of North Carolina,” the
Bogue Banks town’s mayor said. “That clean, natural environment is what
attracts literally millions of people to our coast every year.”
governor said there is no offshore drilling method that’s 100 percent
safe and the risks of catastrophic events such as oil spills come with
“Oil spills bring devastating long-term damage to every place they touch,” Gov. Cooper said.
noted that the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 cost more
than $60 billion in cleanup and economic recovery, an amount equivalent
to the state budget for more than two years. The risk comes with little
promise of financial benefit to the state. North Carolina is unlikely
to get the jobs, revenue sharing or state port business that drilling
proponents have touted.
“That’s a bad deal for our state,” Cooper said.
Interior Department earlier this month announced reduced royalty rates
for Gulf Coast states to encourage drilling by oil companies that have
been reluctant during a yearslong period low oil prices. Revenue
sharing with Atlantic coast states is not allowed by federal law.
environmental risks to North Carolina are greater, Cooper said, with
the current push for deregulation in Washington. “They are slashing
funding for the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of
Interior. That means fewer safeguards for the environment and
ultimately offshore drilling,” Cooper said. “It is simply not worth it.”
Cooper also cited improving renewable technologies and the abundance and lower cost of natural gas in recent years.
state is a national leader in solar energy, an area that has boosted
our economic recovery. Natural gas is cheaper and plentiful now. We
simply don’t need to take the risk of drilling for oil off of our coast
because there are too many reliable energy options,” he said.
governor acknowledged the more than 30 coastal communities that have
passed resolutions opposed to offshore drilling and seismic testing and
the more than 200 businesses and community groups that have come out
against the proposal. Cooper also noted that a bipartisan mix of the
state’s congressional delegation and legislative members had voiced
opposition as well.
“I am proud to lead this effort,” Cooper said.
board of commissioners in Carteret County, which is home to Fort Macon,
is one of two coastal North Carolina county boards that passed
resolutions in favor of offshore drilling. Brunswick County is the
other. The Carteret County Chamber of Commerce, the county’s largest
business organization, has since approved a resolution opposed to
offshore drilling and seismic testing in the Atlantic.
is president of the Carteret County chamber and vice-chair of the
Business Alliance to Protect the Atlantic Coast, or BAPAC, a
multi-state business organization opposed to drilling off the Atlantic
coast. Kies was pleased the governor came here to make the announcement.
aides told me, before he arrived, that BAPAC had been in no small part
an influence in the decision-making process,” Kies said. “In the
governor’s speech, he specified how important tourism is to this coast
and how many jobs it supports. He pointed out the economic risks to
both tourism and commercial fishing. This is precisely the story that
BAPAC has been telling.”
Conservation groups were also quick to praise the governor’s announcement.
want to thank Gov. Cooper for taking a bold and necessary step toward
protecting our state’s coastline from the environmental and economic
threats posed by offshore drilling. We look forward to working together
with his administration and the communities along the North Carolina
coast to protect our beaches, wildlife and local economies from harm,”
North Carolina Conservation Network Executive Director Brian Buzby said
in a statement issued shortly after the governor’s appearance.
North Carolina also applauded the announcement and cited the economic
benefit the state enjoys from birders who visit the coast.
birds count on our coast each year to feed and nest, particularly along
the Outer Banks,” said Audubon North Carolina Executive Director
Heather Hahn. “North Carolina’s birds, beaches and people should not
have to live in fear of an oil spill. The bottom line – birds and
oil don’t mix.”