Obama Administration Drops Plans for Drilling Off NC Coast
OUTER BANKS, N.C. - Along with a breath of ocean air, residents and businesses along the North Carolina coast might be breathing a sigh of relief. The Obama administration is dropping its plans for drilling off the Atlantic coast.
Plans had been announced last year to lease parts of the Outer Continental Shelf from 2017 to 2022, but they drew sharp criticism from groups such as Environment North Carolina. The decision to put a stop to the leasing plan may indicate the administration heard the concerns of the tourism and fishing industries, said Liz Kazal, field director for Environment North Carolina.
"The president listened to the voices of our coastal communities," she said, "and protected marine life, our world-famous beaches and, really, family vacations from the Outer Banks to Sunset Beach."
According to the National Ocean Economics Program, ocean-related tourism generates three times the amount of economic activity that Atlantic drilling would have produced. Environment North Carolina and other groups are urging the president to go one step further and eliminate leasing for all new drilling projects.
Supporters of offshore drilling have said it's a revenue source that would help ensure the nation's energy independence.
As a native of Mississippi, Kazal said, she witnessed the impact the Deepwater Horizon spill had on the Gulf Coast.
"A tragedy like that off of our coast would be 'game over' for our beaches," she said, "and so, really, this is a huge victory for our coast, for anyone who loves beaches and wants to be able to visit them, not just now but for future generations."
North Carolina will be protected from coastal drilling until 2022, but drilling still is possible after that, depending on actions by the next presidential administration.