RALEIGH — Gov. Roy Cooper Wednesday petitioned Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke to grant North Carolina an exemption from the draft plan to open U.S. coastal waters to offshore drilling, just as Zinke granted for Florida.
After Zinke’s announcement Jan. 4 that nearly all U.S. coastal waters would be opened up to allow new offshore oil and gas drilling as part of the National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2019-2024– compared to the current program where 94 percent of the waters are off limits — bipartisan governors have spoken out against the plan.
On Tuesday night, Zinke tweeted that after meeting with Gov. Rick Scott, Florida would be exempted from the plan.
Cooper has since requested to discuss with Zinke the risks of seismic testing and drilling off the state’s coast and demand an exemption for North Carolina like Florida received, according to a release from the governor’s office.
“The Trump Administration, through their decision on Florida, has admitted that offshore drilling is a threat to coastal economies and tourism,” Cooper said in a statement. “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.”
In a letter to Zinke, Cooper reiterated his opposition to offshore drilling off of North Carolina’s coast and emphasized the threat to the state’s coastal economy.
“Just as you acknowledge in removing Florida, offshore drilling threatens tourism, which is a vital economic driver. The same holds true for North Carolina,” Cooper wrote to Zinke.
“Coastal tourism generates $3 billion annually in North Carolina and supports more than 30,000 jobs in the eastern part of the state,” Cooper wrote. “Commercial fishing brings in another $95 million every year. In addition, North Carolina has over 300 miles of coastline, 2.3 million acres of estuarine waters, and over 10,000 miles of estuarine shoreline. All of these contribute to a robust national economy.”
On social media, Cooper called on North Carolinians to contact the Interior Department at 202-208-3100 to express their opposition to drilling off our coast.