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Tillis, Cooper Urge Trump to Protect NC Coast

Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., announces Monday, Sept. 21, that the Trump Administration will include North Carolina in the 10-year moratorium on offshore drilling.

Update, Sept. 21: Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C. said he asked President Trump Monday to extend the offshore drilling moratorium to include North Carolina. “I’m pleased to announced that the president will be doing just that,” Tillis said in a video.

Update Sept. 22: Gov. Roy Cooper said in a statement Tuesday that while waiting for confirmation that the president will extend the offshore drilling moratorium to North Carolina’s waters, as stated in a news release issued by Sen. Thom Tillis, “It’s good the President finally appears to have listened to the bipartisan voices of North Carolinians who for years have been fighting this administration to stop oil drilling off our coast. I will stay vigilant and ready to resume the fight in the event the federal government makes any move toward offshore drilling.”

Randy Sturgill, Oceana Action senior campaign organizer for the Southeast region, said Sept. 21 in a statement that if this is true, Oceana welcomes the withdrawal of North Carolina from offshore drilling for 10 years.

“With this action, President Trump acknowledges overwhelming opposition from North Carolina’s communities, businesses and bipartisan elected officials. Of course, it was the President’s own plan that threatened our state in the first place,” he said. “Other East and West Coast states remain on the table for expanded drilling and deserve the same protections. What President Trump deems good enough for North Carolina and Florida should be good enough for other states, too. It’s time for the President to permanently protect our coasts and formally withdraw his entire radical offshore drilling plan.”

The Southern Environmental Law Center in a release Tuesday expresses concern that the offshore drilling statements in the past two days have sown unnecessary uncertainty into what should be a clear process.

“These statements about possible policy reversals unfortunately do not inspire a lot of confidence about the long-term protection of our coast,” said Sierra Weaver, a senior attorney at the SELC, who heads the organization’s defense against offshore drilling. “And as we keep saying, oil spills don’t know state lines. Whether it’s an arbitrary line at South Carolina or an arbitrary line at North Carolina, it’s not the protection that the entire Atlantic coast needs and deserves.”

The White House has yet to confirm that Trump administration has told some North Carolina leaders it will add the state to the list of drilling exemptions, according to SELC.

Original report follows below.

Gov. Roy Cooper in a letter Sept. 15 urged President Donald Trump and his administration to include North Carolina in the recently announced moratorium on oil drilling for the next 10 years.

The president announced during an event Sept. 8 in Jupiter, Florida, an order to extend the moratorium on offshore drilling on Florida’s Gulf Coast and expanding it to Florida’s Atlantic Coast, as well as the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina.

In 2018, Trump announced plans to open nearly all federal waters to offshore drilling in his draft five-year program for oil and gas development on the Outer Continental Shelf. He later granted Florida an exemption from that program after objections from Florida’s Republican Gov. Rick Scott, per a past report.

“I am deeply concerned and disappointed that you did not include North Carolina in the moratorium,” Cooper wrote. “Offshore drilling threatens North Carolina’s coastal economy and environment and offers our state minimal economic benefit. Accepted science tells us that there is little, if any, oil worth drilling for off North Carolina’s coast, and the risks of offshore drilling far outweigh the benefits.”

Cooper adds in the letter that knowing oil spills do not respect state lines and knowing the state’s history of hurricanes “should give us all pause before contemplating opening the waters off our coast to drilling, as the risk of storm damage to drilling and production equipment and subsequent spread of oil to other states on the Atlantic Coast is ever more likely, especially as climate change causes increasingly severe storms.”

“Opposition to offshore drilling is bipartisan and widespread across our state,” he continued. Forty-five North Carolina communities have adopted formal resolutions opposing the expansion of drilling.

Rep. Greg Murphy, R-N.C. said in an email response to Coastal Review Online, “Having spoken with my coastal constituents over the last year they are not in favor of seismic testing and offshore drilling. Unless the issue becomes one of national security, I will not support drilling off the shores of North Carolina.”

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Staff Report

The story was compiled by staff members of Coastal Review Online.