Despite strong opposition from East Coast governors, several dozen
lawmakers and the Defense Department, the Department of the Interior
Thursday released its proposed five-year draft plan to open up most U.S.
outer continental-shelf waters, including off the North Carolina coast
and some protected areas, to oil and gas exploration and drilling.
Secretary Ryan Zinke announced that the Bureau of Ocean and Energy
Management had identified 47 possible areas where industry companies can
buy leases in the draft National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas
Leasing Program, or National OCS Program, for 2019-2024.
and gas industry groups embraced the new five-year plan, a wide range
of state officials and conservationists were quick to come out in
“Offshore drilling represents a critical threat to our
coastal economy. Protecting North Carolina families and businesses is
my top priority, and we will pursue every option to prevent oil drilling
near North Carolina’s beaches, coastal communities, and fishing
waters,” Gov. Roy Cooper said in a statement.
Environmental Quality Secretary Michael Regan also released a statement
on the plan. “Offshore drilling and the seismic testing that would
precede it pose environmental and economic risks to North Carolina’s
coastal communities that we cannot afford,” Regan said Thursday. “Protection of our beaches, sounds and marine life is vital to ensuring a robust coastal economy.”
group Oceana said the administration’s proposal would put large
multi-national corporations ahead of coastal residents and healthy
ocean-dependent economies. “This plan opens the floodgates to dirty and
dangerous offshore drilling, threatening coastal economies that rely on
clean and healthy oceans,” Oceana campaign director Diane Hoskins said
in a statement.
Zinke said in the
announcement that 155 members of both the House of Representatives and
the Senate sent letters to the secretary in support of a new five-year
plan “that recognizes America’s potential for energy dominance.”
said during a news conference that there is nothing final with
the draft program and that states, communities and congressional
delegations will be able to provide input before the proposal is
finalized in the coming months.
A series of 23 “open house” public meetings have
been scheduled on the draft plan, including one Feb. 26 at the Hilton
North Raleigh/Midtown, 3415 Wake Forest Road, Raleigh.