RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — There’s no safe way to drill for oil on North Carolina’s stormy coast — those words were from Governor Roy Cooper after meeting with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke on Saturday.
Cooper is voicing his opposition to the President Trump’s plan to expand offshore oil and gas drilling.
Cooper says Zinke heard him loud and clear. He does not want offshore drilling of any kind on North Carolina’s coast.
Zinke has not decided whether or not North Carolina will be exempt, but Cooper says if North Carolina does not get that exemption, he has no problem taking the federal government to court.
Atlantic Beach Mayor Trace Cooper says he’ll never forget the tragic lessons he learned from the BP oil spill.
“I know that the gas and oil industry often says, ‘Oh we can do this without a spill.’ I’m sure they told that to the Gulf Coast and then Deepwater Horizon happens and those economies haven’t recovered yet from that,” Trace Cooper said.
Trace Cooper says they coastal communities of North Carolina would bear all of the risks, with no reward. The governor agrees.
“There is very little evidence that North Carolina would gain much economically from offshore drilling,” said Governor Cooper.
The governor is asking Zinke to take North Carolina’s coast off the table. The only state that’s been promised an exemption already is Florida.
“Secretary Zinke said that I am exempting Florida because of its dependence on coastal tourism and because of the strong opposition from local and state government,” said Governor Cooper.
“As I said to him in there this morning, ‘North Carolina is in precisely the same position. If you’re going to exempt Florida for those reasons, you have to exempt North Carolina’.”
Cooper did ask Zinke to extend the federal government’s public comment period on the issue. He also requested three additional public hearings along the coast in Wilmington, Kill Devil Hills and Morehead City.
Cooper said Zinke seemed open to it.
Captain Dave Tempy is a charter fisherman. He says his livelihood depends on that exemption.
“I was very proud to be sitting there and for somebody to be speaking up for us like that,” Tempy said. “Let’s keep our fingers crossed.”
But not every North Carolina politician is on the same page. In July, 36 Republican senators including Senator Richard Burr and Senator Thom Tillis sent a letter to Zinke showing their support for the President Trump’s plan.
The Republican letter said offshore drilling benefits the economies of all states, helps reduce the federal deficit, provides affordable energy to families and strengthens national security.
Cooper says Zinke did not give him any firm deadline on when he would decide whether or not North Carolina would be exempt from the plan, but Cooper says Zinke did say he plans to visit coastal North Carolina.
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