A federal plan to drill for oil off the North Carolina coast has been shelved.
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced Tuesday the Obama administration will not pursue oil and gas exploration in the Atlantic.
“We heard from many corners that now is not the time to start leasing off the Atlantic coast,” said Jewell. “This includes many whose livelihoods depend on shipping, tourism and commercial activity.”
Last year, President Obama proposed opening coastlines from Virginia to Georgia to offshore drilling.
After the original plan was released, residents along the coast packed public comment meetings held by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. Eventually, more than 25 North Carolina coastal communities passed resolutions opposing offshore oil and gas exploration.
Governor Pat McCrory supported the idea, saying it would boost the economy of eastern North Carolina. He proposed using revenue to boost the area's infrastructure and beach nourishment efforts.
In a statement, McCrory blasted today’s decision.
“President Obama’s total reversal can only be described as a special political favor to far-left activists that have no problem importing energy resources from countries hostile to the United States,” said McCrory. “What’s more troubling is the President is closing the door before he even knows what resources can be harnessed in an environmentally sound way. Unfortunately, the Obama administration’s deal could ultimately cost North Carolina thousands of new jobs and billions in needed revenue for schools, infrastructure, dredging and beach renourishment.”
Environmental groups heralded Tuesday’s announcement as a victory.
“This is an incredible day for the Southeast,” said Sierra Weaver, senior attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center. “Communities along the Atlantic have been strongly unified against this plan, and we are grateful the President listened.”
But David McGowan, executive director of the North Carolina Petroleum Council, says the decision not to drill is an economic loss for the state.
“There's tremendous need in Eastern North Carolina, both from an economic development standpoint as well as a jobs standpoint,” said McGowan. “This industry certainly had potential to fill a lot of those needs and provide much needed diversity to our state's economy, particularly to our coast's economy.”
The Interior Department estimates there are at least 3.3 billion barrels of oil off the Atlantic Coast, and 31 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.