By StarNews Editorial Board | StarNews
Governors from both parties are sounding off loudly against the Trump administration’s plan to open up the East Coast for offshore oil and gas drilling. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper joined the chorus (good for him), but so did rock-ribbed Republicans like Rick Scott of Florida and Larry Hogan of Maryland.
That’s not surprising — by any bipartisan standard, this is a bad idea.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said that up to 90 percent of the outer continental shelf on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts would be open to leases for oil and gas drilling between 2019 and 2024.
We don’t want to be accused of NIMBY-ism (as in “Not in My Back Yard”). Still, we don’t want a Deepwater Horizon-style disaster off the Cape Fear coast.
There’s growing evidence that, even minus an oil spill, drilling isn’t healthy for a coastal environment. That’s bad news for areas like the coastal Carolinas, where commercial seafood is a major industry and resource and is already strained from other environmental threats and overharvesting.
There’s even a defense angle: When the Obama administration floated the idea of opening the Carolinas and Georgia to offshore drilling, one of the biggest opponents was the Navy, which conducts ongoing exercises in these waters. Offshore drilling derricks and other needed infrastructure would interfere, Navy officials say.
If this were the early 1970s and people were lining up at empty gas pumps, leasing these drilling sites might make sense. At the moment, however, we’re awash in oil. Gas prices are way down, and our petroleum reserves are full. OPEC nations, Russia and other oil exporters are suffering.
So why drill now? It would make more sense to save these reserves for when they were actually needed. Why risk spreading leaking oil tar on our beaches when we can get along OK without it?
Normally, we might suggest writing your congressman. However, Rep. David Rouzer, Coastal Southeastern North Carolina’s long-distance U.S. House member by way of Johnston County, is a strong advocate for drilling. Granted, coastal pollution is probably not a big concern for Johnston County farmers.
(This is another disadvantage of having a landlocked congressman from near Raleigh representing the state’s largest coastal city. But that’s an issue for another day.)
Sens. Richard Burr and Thom Tillis recently listened to concerns about toxic chemicals in our rivers, lakes and groundwater, and helped stop a very bad nominee to the EPA. Let’s hope they will listen again to the people of coastal North Carolina who don’t want to risk having their environment and economy devastated.
The proposal is still in the planning stages, and President Trump has been known to change his mind. So if you don’t want to risk having oil-soaked shorebirds, closed beaches and a crippled tourism industry, the time to sound off is now.
This is not rocket science — the need and payoff simply are not enough to justify the risk.