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President Bans Offshore Drilling In 3 States, But Not N.C.

Map shows where WesternGeco plans seismic testing off the North Carolina coast.
A map shows areas off the N.C. coast where seismic testing is planned, in advance of offshore oil and gas drilling.

President Donald Trump signed a memorandum to his interior secretary Tuesday that exempts the Atlantic coasts of Florida, South Carolina and Georgia - but not North Carolina - from his push to expand offshore oil and gas drilling. 

Those three states have Republican governors. North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper also has requested the same exemption, but he is a Democrat. 

Specifically, he signed a memorandum instructing the interior secretary to prohibit drilling in the waters off both Florida coasts, and off the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina, for a period of 10 years - from July 1, 2022, to June 20, 2032. 

The move is a partial reversal from two years ago, when Trump took steps to vastly expand offshore drilling nationwide. 

"This protects your beautiful gulf and your beautiful ocean, and it will for a long time to come," Trump said as he announced the expanded drilling ban during an appearance at the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse. 

Last week, North Carolina appealed a government order allowing seismic testing to begin in the state's coastal waters - over the state's objections. 

Twenty-one local leaders from coastal North Carolina signed a resolution a year ago opposing offshore testing and drilling. Concerns include potential environmental damage from both testing and eventual drilling, and possible threats to the tourism industry.  

Environmental groups criticized Trump's decision to let drilling go forward elsewhere on the East Coast.  “This is not a reason to celebrate because oil spills don’t stop at state lines,” said Sierra Weaver, a lawyer with the Southern Environmental Law Center. “As long as any part of the Atlantic coast is open to drilling, all Atlantic states are at risk. Keep the champagne corked until the entire Atlantic coast is protected.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story. 

David Boraks previously covered climate change and the environment for WFAE. See more at www.wfae.org/climate-news. He also has covered housing and homelessness, energy and the environment, transportation and business.