Atlantic Governors Seek Continued Federal Oil and Gas Leasing Ban

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By Andrew M. Ballard

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) is urging federal regulators to continue the current ban on oil and gas drilling off his state’s coast, joining Republican and Democratic governors in East Coast states who don’t want the Atlantic included in the government’s next five-year drilling plan.

All governors in the mid-Atlantic region for the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM)—a region which along with North Carolina includes Maryland, Virginia and Delaware—have said they oppose Atlantic drilling. South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster reportedly has opposed drilling off his state in the past, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) voiced strong opposition to the potential inclusion of the waters off New Jersey’s coast in any leasing plan.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is developing plans for leasing under its National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2019 through 2024. A ban on Atlantic leases was imposed in the Obama administration.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R) and Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) have not expressed a position, and their spokesmen did not respond to Bloomberg BNA’s requests for information.

North Carolina’s governor announced Aug. 18 he had submitted formal comments to the Interior Department, citing the significant environmental and economic threat that oil and gas leasing poses to the state. The governor and state’s Department of Environmental Quality said in the comments, dated Aug. 17, that North Carolina has comparatively minimal offshore oil and gas resources and a unique coastal environment that relies heavily on tourism.

Previous Plans Dropped

Previous BOEM plans to offer leases for offshore oil and gas drilling were dropped last year in the face of Southeast communities’ opposition about the impacts on fishing, tourism, and shipping activities.

Virginia’s Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), also recently submitted comments opposed to offering leasing off his state’s coast, and focused on a lack of federal plans to include a revenue sharing agreement. Delaware Gov. John Carey (D) issued a statement of opposition in April after President Donald Trump signed an executive order April 28 that among other things called for a review of oil and gas leases for the Mid- and South Atlantic.

David McGowan, executive director of the North Carolina Petroleum Council, said his group opposes Cooper’s stance, as offshore operations can create jobs and boost the economy while safely co-existing with North Carolina’s tourism and fishing industries.

Developing “abundant offshore energy resources in the Atlantic is a critical part of an energy policy that will secure our nation’s energy future, advance our national security interests, protect the environment, and help meet the energy needs of the consumers and businesses of North Carolina,” McGowan said in a statement emailed to Bloomberg BNA Aug. 18.

Meanwhile, the Southern Environmental Law Center praised the governors’ positions, saying that the “Southeast coast is built around a thriving tourism industry that attracts visitors from around the world to the pristine beaches, picturesque coastal communities, and beautiful waters that could be devastated with a single major oil spill.”

—With assistance from Renee Schoof.

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew M. Ballard in Raleigh, N.C. at aballard@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rachael Daigle at rdaigle@bna.com

For More Information

North Carolina's comments are available at http://src.bna.com/rOi

Virginia Gov. McAullife's letter is at http://src.bna.com/rOj

Information about BOEM's plan development is at http://src.bna.com/rOk

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