by Billy Ball
Federal leaders on Tuesday rolled out a five-year draft plan for offshore oil and gas leasing in the U.S. As expected, North Carolina is included.
The draft, announced by the U.S. Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, includes 14 potential lease sales: 10 in the Gulf of Mexico, three off the coast of Alaska, and one in a portion of the Mid- and South Atlantic.
“The safe and responsible development of our nation’s domestic energy resources is a key part of the president’s efforts to support American jobs and reduce our dependence on foreign oil,” said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell.
The Atlantic lease area includes sites in offshore North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Georgia.
“At this early stage in considering a lease sale in the Atlantic, we are looking to build up our understanding of resource potential, as well as risks to the environment and other uses,” said Jewell.
It would come with a 50-mile coastal buffer, the department said, to minimize conflicts with the Department of Defense, NASA, renewable energy work, commercial and recreational fishing and natural habitats.
From environmental groups, the criticism began quickly. Nonprofit Environment N.C. said the plan would put North Carolina's "natural heritage at risk," citing 2010's disastrous BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico, which gushed an estimated 210 million gallons into the water.
“As someone who experienced the BP oil spill firsthand, I’ve seen the damages that offshore drilling can bring to the coast from tar balls washing up onto beaches to pelicans and dolphins covered in oil,” said Liz Kazal, field associate with Environment N.C. “The prudent action to take is to keep North Carolina out of the plan for good.”
The federal agencies are requesting public comment as they consider the draft plans, which includes an environmental impact study. For more information, go here.