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Obama OffShore Drilling Announcement: Implications for NC?

May 28, 2010

RALEIGH, N.C. - A North Carolina legislative subcommittee is working on changing recently-drafted policies for drilling off the state's shoreline in light of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Even more changes are expected now that Pres. Obama has canceled Virginia offshore drilling plans, and delayed exploratory projects in the Arctic.

Marilyn Heiman, former policy advisor for the U.S. Department of the Interior and currently director of Pew Environment Group's U.S. Arctic Program, says going slow is a smart move because technology obviously is incapable of handling deep-sea drilling disasters.

"I think that it's a real eye-opener. People really thought the technology had gotten to a point that we could not have to face this type of situation."

A poll conducted in North Carolina just after the Gulf accident shows 63 percent support oil and gas drilling off the state's coast. Drilling there would mean new state revenue and jobs at a time when North Carolina is suffering economically. Heiman agrees that the lure is strong for any state, but lessons from the Gulf spill should include stricter rules and disaster preparation before drilling ever begins.

"What we learned from the Gulf spill is accidents can happen, and when they do, there really is no way to remove that oil, especially in those quantities, from the ocean."

Several oil companies have expressed interest in exploratory projects since Pres. Obama's earlier announcement that he was opening much of the East Coast to exploration.

The poll was conducted by Elon University. The legislative subcommittee studying offshore drilling is the Legislative Research Commission Advisory Subcommittee on Offshore Energy Exploration.

Deb Courson, Public News Service - NC