Governor Roy Cooper has announced his opposition to offshore drilling as the Trump Administration takes steps to reopen oil exploration in the Atlantic.
The governor cited concerns similar to those of environmental groups, saying the risks of a potential spill outweigh economic benefits. In a news conference Thursday at Fort Macon State Park, Cooper said the state should instead focus on other forms of energy.
“Our state is a national leader in solar energy, an area that has boosted our economic recovery,” Cooper said. “Natural gas is cheaper and plentiful now.”
Industry groups say drilling would open up economic opportunities. They support seismic testing that would map the ocean floor for possible oil deposits.
In a statement, the North Carolina Petroleum Council said opposing offshore energy development hurts the state’s workers, consumers and businesses.
“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,” the council’s Executive Director David McGowan said. “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.”
McGowan said the group is particularly concerned about policies designed to stifle scientific and geological research.
Cooper’s viewpoint runs counter to those of North Carolina state Republican leaders, including former Gov. Pat McCrory, and President Donald Trump. The Obama Administration banned offshore drilling in the Atlantic shortly before President Trump took office. Trump's administration has taken steps to reverse the ban.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.