On Thursday, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper announced his opposition to oil and gas E&P off the coast of his state, winning praise from environmental groups and sparking a reaction from the oil industry.
"There is a threat looming over this coastline that we love and the prosperity it brings, and that's the threat of offshore drilling," Cooper said, speaking at Fort Macon State Park. "“It’s clear that opening North Carolina’s coast to oil and gas exploration and drilling would bring unacceptable risks to our economy, our environment, and our coastal communities—and for little potential gain. As governor, I'm here to speak out and take action against it. I can sum it up in four words: 'not off our coast.'"
Gov. Cooper, a Democrat, registered his opposition one day before the close of a comment period on federal permits for a new round of seismic surveys off the Atlantic coast. He joins Maryland Governor Larry Hogan and South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster, who have already stated their opposition to the new surveys. McMaster is a Republican and a longstanding supporter of President Donald Trump.
In April, President Trump signed an executive order to begin the process of rolling back his predecessor’s ban on Atlantic and Arctic offshore E&P, paving the way for a new offshore drilling plan that would include leases off the Eastern seaboard. Proponents of exploration say that a new round of seismic surveys would give additional insight into the potential of the Atlantic continental shelf and inform future leasing decisions.
Gov. Cooper's decision won praise from environmental organizations, but the North Carolina Petroleum Council issued a statement in opposition. "Today's announcement takes North Carolina in the wrong direction and misses a significant opportunity for our states’ workers, consumers, businesses, and economy,” said executive director David McGowan. “The oil and natural gas industry supports over 140,000 jobs in North Carolina, contributes over $12 billion to our state economy, and impacts businesses all across the state. Our state is uniquely positioned to add thousands of additional jobs and increase local revenue through safe and responsible offshore energy development – all of which is disregarded by Governor Cooper’s announcement."
Members of the state's congressional delegation also voiced their objections. Rep. Richard Hudson (R-NC) said that "to put it simply, Gov. Cooper is wrong . . . this is not an either-or situation."