By Rob Morris on March 15, 2016
Overwhelming opposition from coastal communities was among the factors cited in a decision to exclude waters off North Carolina from a new oil and gas leasing plan announced today by the U.S. Department of the Interior.
The Proposed Program for 2017-2022 evaluates 13 potential lease sales in six planning areas — 10 in the Gulf of Mexico and three off the coast of Alaska. None are scheduled in the Mid- and South Atlantic Program Area.
“We heard from many corners that now is not the time to offer oil and gas leasing off the Atlantic coast,” Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said.
“When you factor in conflicts with national defense, economic activities such as fishing and tourism, and opposition from many local communities, it simply doesn’t make sense to move forward with any lease sales in the coming five years.”
Coastal environmental groups and local government officials welcomed the decision. Numerous towns, cities and counties passed resolutions opposing exploration, saying the risk to the enviroment and tourism far exceeded any economic benefits.
“This is a victory for the people of the Outer Banks. I am proud that our community took a strong and united stand against offshore drilling,” Bob Woodard, chairman of the Dare County Board of Commissioners, said in a statement.
“The many letters, phone calls, comments and resolutions from our citizens, business community, and elected leaders appear to have made a difference. While the federal government has put the offshore leasing program on hold, the Dare County Board of Commissioners will continue to watch this issue closely to safeguard our shoreline and our way of life.”
The American Petroleum Institute denounced the decision.
“The decision appeases extremists who seek to stop oil and natural gas production which would increase the cost of energy for American consumers and close the door for years to creating new jobs, new investments and boosting energy security,” API President and CEO Jack Gerard said in a statement.
“This is not how you harness America’s economic and diplomatic potential.
State leaders, including N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory, have touted the potential for jobs and revenue from offshore exploration. No mechanism is in place, however, for states to share revenue.
“President Obama’s total reversal can only be described as a special political favor to far-left activists that have no problem importing energy resources from countries hostile to the United States,” McCrory said in a statement after the decision.
“What’s more troubling is the President is closing the door before he even knows what resources can be harnessed in an environmentally sound way. Unfortunately, the Obama administration’s deal could ultimately cost North Carolina thousands of new jobs and billions in needed revenue for schools, infrastructure, dredging and beach renourishment.”