State Politics

Cooper calls Republican offshore drilling proposal 'ransom'

BOEM's public meeting on offshore drilling met with opposition

North Carolina citizens both in favor of and opposed to offshore drilling attended the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management's only public meeting in the state in Raleigh on Monday February 28, 2018.
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North Carolina citizens both in favor of and opposed to offshore drilling attended the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management's only public meeting in the state in Raleigh on Monday February 28, 2018.

The Democratic governors of five Atlantic states are calling on Congress to reject a proposal to impose heavy fees on states that oppose offshore drilling for oil and natural gas.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper joined the governors of Virginia, New Jersey, Connecticut and Rhode Island in signing a letter to party leaders urging a halt to the plan.

"North Carolina should not have to pay a ransom to protect our beaches from the dangers of offshore drilling," Cooper said in statement released Thursday. "Our coastal communities generate more than 30,000 jobs and the risk posed by offshore drilling simply isn't worth it."

The Trump administration favors opening up the Atlantic and Pacific coasts to offshore drilling. A Republican proposal would give states the authority to reject drilling but at a cost. States that prohibit drilling in more than half of the areas available for drilling off their coasts would be penalized.

Cooper says North Carolina would have to pay more than $500 million in order to protect its coastline.

The proposal would also establish a plan for states that permit drilling to share in the revenue the drilling generates.

The House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources held a hearing on the draft bill on Thursday. Nag's Head Mayor Ben Cahoon, who was among the scheduled speakers, said opening up the oceans to drilling endangers the environment and the tourism economy.

Cahoon said there was overwhelming opposition to the plan, which he said would impose unfair penalties on states that haven't had drilling in decades.

"Offshore drilling in any new areas is not the answer," Cahoon said in prepared remarks. "Unfortunately, this legislation would place an absurd penalty on coastal states, requiring states to pay the federal government to protect their coast, potentially costing taxpayers millions of dollars."

The committee also heard from energy industry and deregulation proponents.

North Carolina flip-flopped on offshore drilling with Cooper's defeat of Republican Gov. Pat McCrory in 2016. McCrory was part of a coalition of coastal governors who support drilling.

Cooper has been an outspoken opponent. He sent federal officials public comments opposing seismic testing and drilling, and in January asked that North Carolina be exempted from Trump's efforts to open up drilling. The governor hosted Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and coastal elected officials in February to discuss the opposition.

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