President Donald Trump will reportedly extend a moratorium on new leases for oil and natural gas drilling off the North Carolina coast for at least the next decade.
U.S. Senator Thom Tillis (R) said in a statement issued Monday that he had spoken with the President earlier in the day, and was informed that North Carolina would be included in a Presidential Memorandum prohibiting leases for offshore development between July 1, 2022, and June 30, 2032.
““Over the last several years, I have listened to mayors and elected officials from Brunswick to Currituck County and have been adamant that any decision on new energy production off North Carolina’s coast should be made with the input of our local communities,” Tillis said.
“This is great development, for Nags Head and North Carolina,” said Nags Head Mayor Ben Cahoon. “I am incredibly grateful for the passion and diligence of every mayor, commissioner, county official, environmental advocate, and the many others, who have been pushing to protect our coast.”
The Dare County Board of Commissioners were poised to pass another resolution Monday opposing both offshore drilling and seismic testing.
Chairman Bob Woodard said the resolution was no longer necessary, after receiving a phone call from Tillis’ office 90 minutes before the meeting began. He called the announcement “welcome news”.
Trump issued an executive order on September 8 extending a drilling ban off the coasts of South Carolina, Florida and Georgia.
The White House declined to comment to the News and Observer on Monday about Tillis’ announcement.
Governor Roy Cooper, along with other state and local leaders, questioned Trump leaving out North Carolina at the time.
Cooper sent a letter to the President last week, requesting North Carolina also be included in the extension.
“It’s good the President finally appears to have listened to the bipartisan voices of North Carolinians who for years have been fighting this administration to stop oil drilling off our coast,” Cooper said in a statement Tuesday morning.
“I will stay vigilant and ready to resume the fight in the event the federal government makes any move toward offshore drilling,” Cooper said.
Earlier this month, WesternGeco announced it was withdrawing an application to conduct seismic testing off the coast of North Carolina and other states for potential oil and natural gas.
Tillis was state House speaker in the early 2010s when the legislature approved the framework to allow oil and natural gas drilling off the Atlantic coast and to collect taxes from the energy products, according to a report from WRAL-TV.
But that production hasn’t occurred due to delays from Washington, D.C., as well as an oversupply of natural gas. A bipartisan group of more than two dozen coastal mayors signed a resolution last year urging such exploration be permanently off-limits.
Tillis pressed for Atlantic coast exploration during a floor speech early in his Senate term for jobs and U.S. energy independence. But last year, he asked the Trump administration to speak with North Carolina tourism and fishing interests to ensure they would be protected under an exploration plan.
WRAL also reported Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham’s campaign blasted Tillis for the change of heart just weeks ahead of Election Day.
“Since the moment he stepped foot on the Senate floor, Tillis has been no friend to North Carolina’s coast, prioritizing his oil and gas donors over our state,” Cunningham spokeswoman Kate Frauenfelder said in a statement. “North Carolinians won’t be fooled by Tillis’ transparent attempt to rewrite his failed record in Washington.”
Carrie Clark with the North Carolina League of Conservation Voters, which is a frequent Tillis critic, attributed the moratorium to the election six weeks away and said “a certain senator and president are feeling the heat.”
“Following the announcement of an offshore drilling moratorium, I urged President Trump to include North Carolina,” Tillis said. “I want to thank President Trump for including North Carolina in the moratorium and listening to the concerns of North Carolinians on the coast.”
“Thanks to Senator Tillis for hearing our message and taking it to the President,” Cahoon said.