Raleigh, NC – North Carolina coastal communities won a major victory today, when the Obama administration abandoned its plans to open the southern Atlantic to offshore oil and gas drilling for the first time in decades.
“Just as our coastal communities and businesses have been saying for the last year, ‘when you drill you spill,’” said Dave Rogers, Environment North Carolina director. “Today President Obama heard them, and protected marine life, world famous beaches, and family vacations from the Outer Banks to Sunset Beach.”
Announced last January, the initial 2017 to 2022 Outer Continental Shelf leasing plan put at risk beaches from Virginia to Georgia, marine life such as the right whales, sea turtles, and dolphins; and thriving tourism and fishing industries that contribute more than $4 billion in total economic activity. The updated version released today completely removes the Atlantic lease areas from the plan.
Opposition to the drilling proposal had been building for months, particularly among coastal towns and businesses – who view the prospect of offshore oil and gas rigs as a threat to beaches, fisheries, and the Atlantic’s coastal economy.
According to the National Ocean Economics Program, ocean-related tourism and recreation generates three times the amount of economic activity Atlantic drilling is estimated to produce.
“What the administration has done is nothing short of saving the coastal jobs of tens of thousands and protecting our coastal heritage and beauty,” said Pete Key, realtor in Oak Island. “I can’t thank them enough for doing the right thing, for our beaches, our economy and for my children and their children.”
Twenty-six coastal towns and cities in North Carolina have passed resolutions against offshore drilling and seismic testing.
“Duck and the other Outer Banks communities commend the decision to remove the Atlantic from the leasing areas,” said Monica Thibodeau, Mayor Pro Tempore of Duck. “It is clear that our natural resources are vital to sustaining our local economy. We stand united on this issue and appreciate that our voices were heard.”
Citizens also turned out in droves to oppose the drilling plan, with more than 1100 people, the vast majority against drilling, attending two public meetings in North Carolina last year.
“We applaud the president for protecting our beaches and coastal way of life from drilling and spilling,” said Rogers. “But to avoid the worst impacts of global warming, we must keep the vast majority of oil, coal, and gas beneath the sea and in the ground. That’s why we urge the president to take all new drilling off the table.”