- By Cro Owens, Staff Writer -
On Jan. 4, President Donald Trump proposed a plan that would eventually allow drilling off of almost every U.S. coast–reversing the Obama Administration’s ban on drilling on the Arctic and Atlantic coasts. The goal is that this plan will boost the US’ energy resources as well as employment. NC Senator Thom Tillis in a speech on the House floor in 2015 referred to an energy study suggesting that such drilling activity in the Atlantic could create up to $4 billion and 55,000 jobs in NC.
Drilling offshore involves placing oil rigs dozens of miles off the coast where they dig through the seabed in search of oil and gas for energy. However, there are a number of environmental concerns. Spills and leaks of oil and natural gas are highly possible. The Natural Resources Defense Council stated that “In the Arctic, the Department of Interior’s own assessment finds a 75 percent chance of an oil spill should just the proposed drilling in the Chukchi Sea proceed.”
Offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico resulted in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, the largest accidental ocean spill in history, over 130 million gallons, and we are still seeing its negative effects. So the benefits are high, but so are the potential risks.
Earlier this month, the Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, tweeted that he was “removing Florida from consideration for any new oil and gas platforms” due to their tourism and seafood industries. However, on January 19, Zinke revealed that Florida had not formally been exempted and was still under review.
After Florida’s potential exemption was announced, a wave of political officials from other eastern states asked to be exempted as well. Among those was North Carolina’s Governor Roy Cooper.
According to the News and Observer, Cooper stated that “I can sum it up in four words: Not off our coast. It is simply not worth the risk.” In a Twitter video, Cooper cited N.C.’s beautiful beaches as a tourist attraction and it’s oceans as the source of fishing, both of which greatly benefit NC’s economy. He also stated that NC should be pushing to use rapidly advancing renewable energy resources such as solar energy.
Both N.C. Senators Thom Tillis and Richard Burr have quietly voiced their support for drilling off the NC coast by writing to Secretary Zinke, but Governor Cooper remains strongly opposed.