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Offshore Drilling Plan on Atlantic Coast Expected Soon

The North Carolina Coastal Federation has joined several other groups in filing a motion for a preliminary injunction to block seismic surveys from beginning in the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf. (daveynin/Flickr)
The North Carolina Coastal Federation has joined several other groups in filing a motion for a preliminary injunction to block seismic surveys from beginning in the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf. (daveynin/Flickr)
March 29, 2019

WANCHESE, N.C. – A proposed federal plan from President Donald Trump to allow offshore drilling off the Atlantic coast is expected to be released soon, now that Interior secretary nominee David Bernhardt has had his Senate hearing.

North Carolina and eight other Atlantic Coast states, including South Carolina, are part of a lawsuit against Trump's offshore drilling plan, which was first drafted last year. They want to stop seismic testing and potential drilling off the East Coast.

Michael Flynn is coastal advocate for the North Carolina Coastal Federation's Northeast office. He explains that after the proposed plan is released, there will be a 90-day comment period.

Flynn says travel plans from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management may indicate when they expect to hold public hearings in North Carolina.

"We have been informed that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management reserved a hotel through Ramada Plaza in Kill Devil Hills for May 14 to conduct an open house,” says Flynn. “Then we were also notified that BOEM reserved another hotel in Morehead City for the following day, for May 15."

In 2018, when there was a comment period on the first draft of the plan, BOEM similarly booked hotels to have open houses and hear from the public. The proposed federal plan not only aims to open up the Atlantic coast to offshore drilling, but also the Pacific, Gulf and Arctic waters.

Sen. Thom Tillis, R-North Carolina, is reportedly undecided on the Bernhardt nomination. Supporters of offshore drilling argue it's needed for the country's energy independence and will create jobs.

Meanwhile, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper has voiced opposition to offshore drilling. Flynn says a number of states have passed legislation that curbs offshore drilling.

"Some of the states have been taking action, by their introducing legislation that would prohibit the construction of infrastructure to support the oil and gas industry within their state waters,” says Flynn. “We have examples from New Jersey, Maryland, Florida, and Oregon."

California and Delaware also have bans on offshore drilling, and at least eight other states are considering like-minded legislation. No similar bill has been introduced yet in North Carolina.

At a federal level, the House Natural Resources Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing Tuesday on several pieces of legislation that would ban offshore drilling.

Reporting by North Carolina News Connection in association with Media in the Public Interest and funded in part by the Park Foundation.

Laura Rosbrow-Telem, Public News Service - NC