North Carolina Offers Strong Support of Oil and Gas Exploration Off Atlantic Coast

Governor Pat McCrory file photo.
Governor Pat McCrory file photo.

North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory on Wednesday expressed strong support for the environmentally safe and responsible offshore energy exploration off the Atlantic coast, but said that a proposed 50 mile exclusion zone will make North Carolina’s most accessible undiscovered resources out of play.

In a testimony before Congress, Governor McCrory addressed the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee Energy and Mineral Land Resources Subcommittee hearing titled “Examining the Future Impacts of President Obama’s Offshore Energy Plan.”

“Energy development is good for the country’s energy independence and good for North Carolina jobs and future careers,” Governor McCrory said. “Let’s get this process started now.”

In explaining his support for exploration, Governor McCrory cited how he has met extensively with coastal communities to discuss the risks and potential that come with offshore energy exploration. The governor also cited a recent study showing that by 2035 new access to offshore energy resources could generate more than 55,000 jobs and $3 billion in annual spending within the state.

The Governor added prior to any lease sale or resource development, however, North Carolina must update decades-old geological and geophysical information through new seismic imaging, and called on the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to complete its review of the permit applications for seismic surveys by the end of this year. He also lamented that the state cannot support offshore energy development without equitable revenue sharing with participating coastal states.

Governor McCrory also challenged an imposed 50-mile buffer zone for the proposed Mid and South Atlantic Planning areas, saying that the exclusion zone was included primarily due to issues raised by the Commonwealth of Virginia and unnecessarily places much of North Carolina’s most accessible undiscovered resources under lock and key. Based on seismic data collected in the 1980s, application of the 50-mile buffer could put out of play as much as 40 percent of North Carolina’s potential offshore resources, the Governor said.

“North Carolina’s coastline is unique and merits individual consideration when determining appropriate exclusion zones,” the governor said.

During the testimony, the governor also requested the addition of multiple lease sales earlier in the Five-Year Program. Holding at least two lease sales would make Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf development more economical by providing the incentive for Atlantic coastal states to improve their infrastructure and support services, as safe and economic oil and gas production relies upon an extensive amount of coastal infrastructure, according to the Governor.

In January, the Obama administration unveiled its draft Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2017-2022, which for the first time would open up the possibilty for oil and gas exploration in U.S. waters off the Atlantic Coast, more specifically Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina or Georgia.

Governor McCrory’s full written testimony can be found HERE.