North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper has joined governors from four other coastal states in opposing proposed federal legislation that sets new rules for offshore oil and gas production.
The governors have all opposed offshore oil exploration and drilling in their coastal waters, saying it would hurt the environment and tourism.
In a press statement today, the governors said the proposed Enhancing State Management of Federal Lands and Water Act would not expand states’ rights when it comes to offshore drilling but eliminate them.
Cooper criticized a provision in the legislation that called for states that apply for and receive approval from the federal government to regulate oil and gas exploration in their waters, to pay a fee. That fee would be determined by the Secretary of the Interior. Cooper said the cost to North Carolina for a waiver from federal jurisdiction over offshore drilling in the state could be more than $550 million.
“North Carolina should not have to pay a ransom to protect our beaches from the dangers of offshore drilling,” Cooper said. “Our coastal communities generate more than 30,000 jobs and the risk posed by offshore drilling simply isn’t worth it.”
Trump Administration officials have pushed for offshore oil drilling in nearly all of the country’s coastal waters, saying it would bring about a better balance between the country’s need to produce energy and environmental protections. The coastal drilling is being opposed by Democratic and Republican leaders.
On Capitol Hill Thursday, Nags Head Mayor Ben Cahoon testified on the legislation before the Energy and Minerals Resources Subcommittee. He pointed out that towns’ and cities’ coastlines generate tens of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars from tourism, the fishing industry and boat building. He says their economies would be threatened by offshore drilling, especially in the event of an accident.
“What we really worry about is a spill and what happens when there’s a spill,” Cahoon said. “And for us, that one spill could be enough to totally wipe out a season for us and with the thin margins for our hoteliers, our restaurant people and all of us in the tourism industry that could wipe us out.”
Cahoon and the governors are asking Congressional leaders to reject the legislation and give states the rights to protect their waters without being charged the proposed fees for that authority.