'Not off our coast': Cooper announces opposition to offshore drilling

Published: Jul. 20, 2017 at 3:48 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 20, 2017 at 6:50 PM EDT
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CARTERET COUNTY, NC (WECT) - North Carolina Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper says he's opposed to drilling for natural gas and oil off the Atlantic coast, saying it's not worth the risk of harming the state's pristine beaches and tourism economy.

Cooper made the announcement Thursday at Fort Macon State Park in Carteret County.

"It's clear that opening North Carolina's coast to oil and gas exploration and drilling would bring unacceptable risks to our economy, our environment, and our coastal communities -- and for little potential gain," said Cooper. "As Governor, I'm here to speak out and take action against it. I can sum it up in four words: not off our coast."

Cooper's viewpoint runs counter to those of North Carolina state Republican leaders, including former Gov. Pat McCrory, and President Donald Trump.

The Trump administration is rewriting a five-year drilling plan that would open portions of the Atlantic now off-limits to drilling and has asked permission for companies to use seismic air guns to find oil and gas formations.

Cooper added that a potential oil spill could decimate the state's coastal tourism and commercial fishing industries, which are both major economic drivers. In addition to the economic risks, Cooper cited improving renewable technologies and the lower cost of natural gas.

He also explained that the political climate in Washington, which he says is focused on deregulation, could jeopardize communities near drilling.

"In Washington, D.C., deregulation is a top priority. That means fewer safeguards for the environment and ultimately offshore drilling," Gov. Cooper said. "It's simply not worth it."

Cooper says he'll file the state's opposition to the seismic testing ahead of Friday's deadline for comment.

This is welcomed news to coastal advocate Mike Giles of the North Carolina Coastal Federation in Wrightsville Beach. Giles echoed the governor's statements, saying that the risks outweigh the rewards.

"If you drill off the coast of North Carolina, you would be drilling in the most productive marine area for marine mammals and fishing in the world and it's not worth the risk. There's not enough oil and gas off of our coast to justify doing it," Giles said.

Giles said the public needs to reach out to the governor and acknowledge his statements.

"What they need to do now is call the governor and thank him. Either email or call the governor and thank him for what he did," he said.

Copyright 2017 WECT. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.