Editor’s note: contact information is listed at end of article.
By Peter Vankevich
With gas and oil drilling off the North Carolina coast back on the table, the Ocracoke Observer asked elected officials representing Ocracoke to provide their views on this hot topic.
Although quashed last year by then president Barack Obama, the issue roared back with the Trump Administration, and again on Jan. 4 when Department of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced plans to open 94 percent of the U.S. coastal waters to drilling.
Gov. Roy Cooper (D) immediately reacted.
“Is this thing on? I’ll try again: Not Off Our Coast – RC,” he added to the Twitter discourse.
“Offshore drilling represents a critical threat to our coastal economy,” Cooper said in the statement issued in response to Zinke’s proposal. “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 is one of at least 10 coastal governors who have voiced opposition to this proposal.
Zinke created a bipartisan uproar by announcing on Tuesday that Florida would be exempted from drilling.
“I support the governor’s position that Florida is unique and its coasts are heavily reliant on tourism as an economic driver,” Zinke said in a statement. “As a result of discussion with Gov. (Rick) Scott and his leadership, I am removing Florida from consideration for any new oil and gas platforms.”
Cooper fired back to that news, urging Zinke to grant an exemption for North Carolina. Cooper requested a meeting with Zinke to explain the critical threat that drilling and seismic testing pose to North Carolina’s coastal communities, economy and environment. The state is also exploring legal options to prevent offshore drilling.
“The Trump Administration, through their decision on Florida, has admitted that offshore drilling is a threat to coastal economies and tourism,” Cooper said. “Offshore drilling holds the same risks for North Carolina as it does for Florida, and North Carolina deserves the same exemption. As I said last summer: Not off our coast.”
Cooper has been the most vocal state politician on this issue. So we provide the following elected representatives’ views who all responded by email. The Hyde County Board of Commissioners did not respond yet.
Congressman Walter Jones (R NC-Third District) voiced his opposition.
“As a conservative constitutionalist and an advocate of the federalist principle of states’ rights upon which our nation was founded, I believe the states ought to have the authority to determine whether oil and gas drilling takes place within their boundaries or off their coast, not the federal government, as is currently the case. In fact, one of the first bills I introduced in Congress would give states that responsibility. It is the citizens of North Carolina, not the federal government, who are in the best position to decide whether drilling off North Carolina makes sense for North Carolinians. I opposed President Obama’s initial plan to open the South Atlantic (including North Carolina) to offshore drilling primarily for that reason, and my position has not changed.”
Sen.Thom Tillis (R) supports offshore drilling.
“The Trump Administration’s proposal has the potential to create thousands of jobs, raise billions in
revenue and enhance U.S. energy security supportive of oil and gas exploration along the Outer Continental Shelf with some key conditions. There should be no permanent structures along the site horizon in order to protect tourism and the natural beauty of the coastline. Additionally, coastal communities should be given the opportunity to benefit from any revenues that could be derived, particularly when it comes to beach renourishment, dredging, and conservation funds.”
Sen. Richard Burr (R) said he is evaluating the proposal. He said his position has long been that any
offshore drilling plans should have the support of coastal communities and include a robust revenue-sharing plan targeted directly to beach renourishment and other local needs. “The Administration’s plan is a first step in a long process,” he said.
He noted that in a November 2016 a congressional vote on revenue sharing, he voted against the bill because of lack of Land and Water Conservation funding and revenue sharing that wasn’t targeted exclusively to coastal communities.
At the state General Assembly level, Sen. Bill Cook (R-District 1) stated in an email: “At this juncture, I need to study and further examine exactly what is being proposed by President Trump’s administration. However, job creation, effective global competitiveness and national security depend upon developing our nation’s diverse energy resources. The identification and utilization of abundant supplies of affordable and reliable energy are vital to the prosperity of North Carolina and our nation.
“Pursuant to information from the Quest Offshore Resources, the potential impact to North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia combined by 2035 would be 116,000 jobs, $56 billion in cumulative spending, $9 billion annually and $9.5 billion from revenue sharing. The numbers are based off of previous estimates of offshore resources. Make no mistake; I strongly believe that an equitable revenue sharing among coastal energy states is a must in regards to assisting local communities for additional infrastructure, environmental protection and other coastal management needs generated by any new economic activity.
“In 2014, the federal government collected more than $7.3 billion in tax receipts from offshore royalties, rents and bonuses.”
State House member Rep. Beverly Boswell (R-District 6) said:
“I’ll need to look further into the U.S. Department of Interior’s proposal. However, we need to be prepared for the future, projections indicate that the global population will increase from seven to nine billion by 2050, which will double energy demand. According to the U.S. Energy Information and Administration, oil and natural gas will remain the backbone of this country’s energy supply for decades to come. These projections take into account the growth and advancement of renewable and alternative energies, as well as improve efficiencies. These reports also indicate about 50 percent of the country’s energy demand will have to come from oil and natural gas, and we as a country must be prepared for that need.”
Below is the contact information for the above representatives and the Secretary of Interior:
Gov. Roy Cooper
20301 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-0301
Senator Thom Tillis
185 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Fax: (202) 228-2563
Senator Richard Burr
Russell Senate Office Building
217 Constitution Ave NE
Washington, DC 20510
Senator Bill Cook
16 W Jones Street, Room 1026
Raleigh, NC 27601-2808
Representative Beverly G. Boswell
N.C. House of Representatives
300 N Salisbury Street, Room 531
Raleigh, NC 27603-5925
Secretary Ryan Zinke
Department of the Interio
1849 C Street, N.W.
Washington DC 20240