Gov. Roy Cooper announced that he and his administration will do whatever possible to prevent offshore oil drilling off the North Carolina coast.
The announcement follows a statement from Cooper’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) secretary on the same topic after the Trump Administration said it would vastly expand opportunities for offshore oil drilling in 2019.
“Offshore drilling represents a critical threat to our coastal economy,” declared Cooper in a statement. “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.”
Cooper said that he views offshore drilling as a threat to the state and that his administration is committed to protecting the state from offshore drilling.
“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,” Cooper said in July on the issue. “As Governor, I’m here to speak out and take action against it. I can sum it up in four words: not off our coast.” DEQ Secretary Michael Regan said that offshore drilling would pose an environmental and economic risk to the state.
“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, last week said. “Protection of our beaches, sounds and marine life is vital to ensuring a robust coastal economy.”
Regan’s statement was prompted by the announcement from U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke that his department is taking the next step in developing the National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program (National OCS Program) for 2019-2024.
Of the 47 proposed leases nine of them are for the Atlantic region, and of those nine three are for the Mid-Atlantic, which includes all of North Carolina and extends north to include Delaware.
The remaining six Draft Proposed Program (DPP) leases include three for the South Atlantic region, two for the North Atlantic and one in the Straits of Florida.
There have been no lease sales in the Atlantic since 1983 and there are no existing leases.
The largest number of the DPP leases are directed toward Alaska, at 19 of the overall 47 planned leases.
Under the National OCS Program, the federal government proposes to make over 90 percent of the total OCS acreage and more than 98 percent of undiscovered, technically recoverable oil and gas resources in federal offshore areas available to consider for future exploration and development.
The change would flip the current offshore drilling plan on its head; the current program puts 94 percent of the OCS off limits.
In addition, the program proposes the largest number of lease sales in U.S. history.
“Responsibly developing our energy resources on the Outer Continental Shelf in a safe and well-regulated way is important to our economy and energy security, and it provides billions of dollars to fund the conservation of our coastlines, public lands and parks,” Zinke said. “Today’s announcement lays out the options that are on the table and starts a lengthy and robust public comment period. Just like with mining, not all areas are appropriate for offshore drilling, and we will take that into consideration in the coming weeks. The important thing is we strike the right balance to protect our coasts and people while still powering America and achieving American Energy Dominance.” Earlier this year, 155 members of both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate sent letters to Zinke in support of a new 5-year plan that recognizes America’s potential for energy dominance.
The current DPP includes 47 potential lease sales in 25 of the 26 planning areas – 19 sales off the coast of Alaska, seven in the Pacific Region, 12 in the Gulf of Mexico, and nine in the Atlantic Region.
This is the largest number of lease sales ever proposed for the National OCS Program’s five-year lease schedule.
“By proposing to open up nearly the entire OCS for potential oil and gas exploration, the United States can advance the goal of moving from aspiring for energy independence to attaining energy dominance,” Vincent DeVito, counselor for energy policy at Department of the Interior, said. “This decision could bring unprecedented access to America’s extensive offshore oil and gas resources and allows us to better compete with other oil-rich nations.”
The release of the DPP is an early step in a multi-year process to develop a final National OCS Program for 2019-2024.