In the wake of the Gulf spill, Gov. Bev Perdue signed a bill this week that will make it harder for oil companies like BP to obtain leases to drill off the Outer Banks. If oil companies clear the new hurdles in the law—such as proving they could contain or prevent an oil spill before it harmed the North Carolina coast—they would be fully liable for any damage if an accident did occur.
“Our coastline is home to many families, provides jobs for our people, and is a source of pride for all North Carolina,” said Perdue. “It’s critical that we do all we can to protect this precious resource.”
“A spill like the one in the Gulf could seriously harm our coast and the economy that depends on it,” said Environment North Carolina Policy Advocate Margaret Hartzell. “The bill helps protect the Outer Banks from an oil catastrophe.”
The bill, championed by Rep. Pricey Harrison (Guilford) and Sen. Margaret Dickson (Cumberland) passed the NC General Assembly with nearly unanimous support in July.
“This bill is a common sense way to protect North Carolina’s coast from the dangers of offshore drilling, at the same time enacting one of the strongest laws in the nation that will protect our shores for future generations,” said Rep. Harrison.
Ultimately, only the Obama Administration can decide where to drill off the nation’s shores. While President Obama has called for a moratorium on deepwater drilling until the end of 2010, he has not yet withdrawn his plans to expand drilling into 200 million acres of the Atlantic Ocean and Eastern Gulf of Mexico—including North Carolina’s shores.
“Only the federal government can decide if drilling will occur off our beaches, but in the meantime this bill is a safeguard to protect the Outer Banks and the rest of North Carolina’s coastline,” said Sen. Dickson.
The BP Oil Spill, which officials now estimate is the largest the world has ever seen, has closed 80,000 square miles of fisheries, and its effects have been observed on more than 70 different beaches from Louisiana to Florida.
The Outer Banks alone draw more than 7 million visitors each year, while coastal tourism and fishing spur well over $2.1 billion in spending each year.
“As in the Gulf region, North Carolina’s coast is a vital part of the state’s natural heritage and economy. Environment North Carolina commends the General Assembly and Gov. Perdue for taking action to protect North Carolina’s coast,” concluded Hartzell.