January 11, 2018



Cooper Asks Feds to Exempt N.C. From Offshore Drilling


THE OUTER BANKS SENTINEL




One day after the news that the Trump Administration was removing the waters off Florida from its new offshore drilling plan, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper asked for a similar waiver for his state.

“Offshore drilling holds the same risks for North Carolina as it does for Florida and North Carolina deserves the same exemption,” Cooper declared.

The new plan for developing the National Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2019-2024 was announced on Jan. 4 by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. It proposes to make more than 90 percent of the total OCS acreage available for exploration and development.

The plan also called for 47 potential lease sales.  Nine are in the Atlantic region, with three of them in the Mid- and South Atlantic.

This week’s decision to drop Florida from that list came after Rick Scott, the Republican governor of the state, voiced his strong opposition to drilling off Florida’s coast. Cooper is a Democrat who defeated incumbent Republican Pat McCrory, a strong supporter of offshore drilling, in November 2016.

Cooper said he had requested a meeting or phone call with Secretary Zinke to explain the risks of seismic testing and drilling off of North Carolina’s coast and to demand an exemption for North Carolina like Florida received.

 In a letter to Zinke, Gov. Cooper reiterated his opposition to offshore drilling off of North Carolina’s coast and emphasized the threat to the state’s coastal economy.

“Coastal tourism generates $3 billion annually in North Carolina and supports more than 30,000 jobs in the eastern part of the state. Commercial fishing brings in another $95 million every year. In addition, North Carolina has over 300 miles of coastline, 2.3 million acres of estuarine waters, and over 10,000 miles of estuarine shoreline. All of these contribute to a robust national economy.”

Generally speaking, Zinke’s new and ambitious plan for widespread offshore drilling has generated considerable opposition in coastal states.

In an interview with the Sentinel, Randy Sturgill, a senior campaign organizer for the environmental group Oceana, called the plan "insane" and a "radical offshore free-for-all. One thing is for sure. They will not get the Atlantic without one hell of a fight!"

Dare Board of Commissioners Chairman Bob Woodard said the board's longstanding opposition to offshore drilling and seismic testing "has not changed and we remain strongly opposed to this." Speaking at the Jan. 8 board of commissioners meeting, he encouraged the other board members to "look at this new plan. We as a board may need to take a look at passing another resolution against it. I still take the position that 'we take all the risk, but get none of the reward.”

Meeting with members of the media in Washington on Jan. 9, Jack Gerard, the president of the American Petroleum Institute, lauded the Trump Administration for its “courage” and “foresight” in producing the expanded offshore drilling plan.

Asked to respond to reports of vocal opposition to that plan in coastal communities, Gerard stressed that “it’s a first step in a long process,” adding that “polls say Americans want their resources developed.”



           
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