Governor Roy Cooper is asking the Trump administration to exempt North Carolina from a plan to open more coastal waters to offshore oil drilling. The request follows the decision by the U.S. Department of the Interior to exclude Florida from the drilling proposal, after Governor Rick Scott expressed concern over the effect on his state’s tourism industry.
In a statement, Cooper says drilling could also lead to problems on North Carolina’s coast.
“The Trump Administration, through their decision on Florida, has admitted that offshore drilling is a threat to coastal economies and tourism. Offshore drilling holds the same risks for North Carolina as it does for Florida and North Carolina deserves the same exemption. As I said last summer, not off our coast.”
Cooper says coastal tourism in North Carolina generates $3 billion annually. South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster is also asking for an exemption for his state, citing the possible effects on the tourism industry there.
"We cannot afford to take a chance with the beauty, the majesty and the economic value and vitality of our wonderful coastline in South Carolina. It is just too important. This is a matter of serious importance to us in South Carolina," said McMaster.
Democrats accuse President Trump and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke of hypocrisy by agreeing to Florida's request for exemption but denying similar requests by Democratic governors opposing the drilling expansion. A spokeswoman for Zinke says such criticism is "empty pandering" and has invited governors to seek a meeting with the secretary. Cooper, a Democrat, and McMaster, a Republican, have each requested a meeting with Zinke. The Interior Department's five-year plan would open 90 percent of the nation's offshore oil reserves to development by private companies.