July 22, 2017
By Madeline Patrick
“As Governor Cooper underscored, there’s just too much at risk for North Carolina with offshore drilling – handsome white sand beaches that draw tourists from around the world, rich estuaries and fishing industry, and a whole Southern and coastal way of life”.
Cooper 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.
“We have consulted with experts and we’ve examined carefully what we know about this”, Cooper said.
South Carolina’s Republican governor, Henry McMaster, has repeatedly expressed opposition to offshore drilling.
An oil spill would devastate the coastal environment and economy for years, he said, and the Trump administration is eliminating regulations that provide some safeguards against spills.
The North Carolina governor’s office – once the leading force behind the push to open the Southeast coast to offshore oil and gas exploration and drilling – has reversed course under new leadership and amid dramatic political shifts on the issue.
In a statement, the North Carolina Petroleum Council said opposing offshore energy development hurts the state’s workers, consumers and businesses. But McCrory lost previous year to Cooper, the former attorney general and state lawmaker who was endorsed by the N.C. League of Conservation Voters for his record on environmental and public health issues. While Obama eventually banned offshore drilling in Atlantic and Arctic waters, President Donald Trump (R) issued an executive order in April of this year to resume federal reviews for offshore drilling prospects. Those opposed to offshore drilling also point to North Carolina’s ever present risk of hurricanes thereby increasing the risk of spills. These waters are protected, and Americans want them to stay that way. Better an improving technology is credited for avoiding environmental risks. “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.
Scientists have long said it’s unlikely that there’s much oil or gas to find off the coast, and 30 coastal communities and about 200 businesses have come out in opposition to drilling.
“I am proud to lead this effort”, Cooper said. Gen. Greg Lusk, Adjutant General of North Carolina.
Tom Kies 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.
Although the 2016 race for governor was decided by a razor thin margin of 10,000 votes, coastal Carteret – where Cooper made the announcement – voted overwhelmingly for McCrory at almost 70 percent. He pointed out the economic risks to both tourism and commercial fishing.
Conservation groups were also quick to praise the governor’s announcement.
“There is a threat looming over this coastline that we love and the prosperity it brings, and that’s the threat of offshore drilling”, he said.
“To put our communities first and to protect our coast as well as our economy, I am saying no to seismic testing and offshore drilling”, Cooper said.
Audubon North Carolina also applauded the announcement and cited the economic benefit the state enjoys from birders who visit the coast.
“You’re going to turn the Outer Banks into a huge industrial complex?” she said. “The bottom line – birds and oil don’t mix”.