In an uncommon step for a state regulator, the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality is seeking public comment on a federal government program that may allow offshore oil exploration in the Atlantic Ocean.
Two years ago, the federal department that oversees offshore oil lease sales conducted an information session at several locations across the state. Residents and business owners overwhelmingly opposed the drilling at those meetings.
The Obama Administration eventually abandoned the idea of selling leases off the North Carolina coast. But the Trump Administration in April issued an executive order expressing support for offshore drilling.
Governor Roy Cooper has stated he is against it, and has now directed DEQ to hold public comment sessions this week in Wilmington, Morehead City, and Manteo. No state-led meetings were held when offshore oil leasing was being considered last time around.
Former Governor Pat McCrory strongly supported offshore oil drilling, and stated so before the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management held their information meetings in 2015.
The federal government controls all energy leases in the Atlantic Ocean beyond three nautical miles from shore.