Cooper on offshore drilling: 'Not in our state'

Gov. Roy Cooper speaks in Atlantic Beach on Thursday, July 20. (Nate Belt/NewsChannel 12)

ATLANTIC BEACH, Carteret County - North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper laid out firm opposition to offshore drilling on Thursday.

Speaking at a press conference in Atlantic Beach Thursday morning, the first-term Democrat summed up his opposition to the Trump Administration's decision to allow explore seismic testing off the east coast of the US in four words: "Not in our state."

Cooper said there is little evidence that offshore drilling would help the state's economy, saying North Carolina is a leader in renewable energy and offshore drilling creates unnecessary risks.

"We put our communities first, and protect our coast line and economy. I am saying no to offshore drilling and seismic testing."

Cooper's remarks were delivered at Fort Macon State Park, where he talked about how the coast was a clear part of the state's identity.

The Governor's office said a potential oil spill of the North Carolina coast could have devastating effects on both coastal tourism and commercial fishing. Tourism along the coast provides revenue in excess of $3 billion annually and supports more than 30,000 jobs.

The North Carolina Petroleum Council came out against Cooper's stance, saying his opposition to offshore energy exploration was detrimental to the state.

"Today's announcement takes North Carolina in the wrong direction and misses a significant opportunity for our states' workers, consumers, businesses, and economy," said NCPC Executive Director David McGowan. "The oil and natural gas industry supports over 140,000 jobs in North Carolina, contributes over $12 billion to our state economy, and impacts businesses all across the state. Our state is uniquely positioned to add thousands of additional jobs and increase local revenue through safe and responsible offshore energy development - all of which is disregarded by Governor Cooper's announcement."

The North Carolina Coastal Federation reports that more than 30 coastal communities and 200 businesses have already spoken out against offshore drilling.

The Sierra Club also showed its support for Cooper's stance, saying it shows a marked turnaround from the policies of former Republican Gov. Pat McCrory. The issue is not strictly partisan, however, as Republican Rep. Walter Jones, whose 3rd District encompasses a good chunk of the North Carolina coast, has consistently opposed seismic testing or offshore drilling off the state's coast.