Front Porch Blog

Will Senator Burr Lift the Offshore Drilling Moratorium?

On March 16th, by a vote of 156-262, the House of Representatives voted to maintain the offshore drilling ban on the Atlantic Coast, Florida, The Gulf, and the Pacific coasts.

The Presidential ban (which largely overlaps with a similar congressional one) was enacted in 1990 under George H.W. Bush.

Right after I thanked Senator Burr yesterday, he shows us again how vulnerable he is to the influence of big oil companies. Remember, he was one of the few US Senators who actually opposed keeping hypothetical oil from the Arctic Refuge in US markets. While Senator Burr joins the overwhelming majority of his peers and constituents in opposing offshore drilling in NC, he would not be opposed to letting parts of Virginia open up the section of the coast that is in their state. His only request is that it be kept at least 20 miles from NC, stating that he’s “done his research,” and that 20 miles is the exact distance that puts it out of eyesight.

The lifting of the Atlantic offshore drilling band might start in Virginia, but it could have enormous consequences for the entire Atlantic Coast, including the Outer Banks of North Carolina

Richard Chater, Co-chair of the National Outer Continental Shelf Coalition, is working with fishers, conservationists, and local governments to ensure that that doesn’t happen. He identifies North Carolina as the “most vulnerable state in this equation.”

“North Carolina probably is the most interesting to the oil industry of any area on the Atlantic coast.”

Congressman J. Petersen of Pennsylvania’s 5th district challenged Bush to lift the offshore drilling ban. Like most critics of the coastlines, Petersen sites America’s dependence on oil, without doing anything to look at long term solutions that are ecologically friendly.

The Raleigh News and Observer reportsthat the Atlantic Coast’s offshore drilling ban is more vulnerable than ever, and puts the focus on the desire of a faction of Virginia legislators to open up their coastline for offshore oil and natural gas.

Will Senators Dole and Burr, despite opposition to offshore drilling in NC, be strong enough on the issue to keep the current offshore drilling ban in place? Burr sits on the energy committee, and having supported the drilling moratorium as many times as he has, I don’t see how he could possibly shift positions without some serious repercussions among his constituents.

From Burr’s website:

As a Member of the House of Representatives, Burr voted to honor the moratorium off the state’s coast five times and twice signed onto letters opposing efforts to lift the moratorium. Additionally, in February of this year, Senator Burr joined a bipartisan group of Senators in a letter in support of the moratorium.

The economic consequences to North Carolina’s tourism industry in the Outer Banks and to our fisheries would be enormous.

Its not just up to these North Carolina Senators…
Despite a failed effort last year to attach offshore drilling to the energy bill, Senator Warner of Virginia wants to keep on pushing for offshore oil and gas drilling. Joining him are a small number of Virginia legislators and energy companies.

Warner, a Virginia Republican, introduced a bill Wednesday allowing states to decide whether to allow drilling off their coasts. The legislation allows neighboring states to complain to the federal government if the drilling comes closer than 20 miles to state waters. But the final say would rest with the U.S. Interior secretary.

Virginia is really where the entire state of the Atlantic Coast Drilling Band hinges.

Virginia state legislators passed a law last year to force the governor to lobby for offshore drilling in return for some of the revenue the United States gets from energy companies for leasing rights to the ocean’s depths.

Then-Gov. Mark Warner vetoed the bill, but lawmakers are trying again this year, with a new governor.

I don’t see Gov. Tim Kaine doing anything but vetoing the bill as well.

New Jersey Senators Lautenburg and Menendez are also at work to stop the lift in Virginia, because they recognize the danger that a spill or accident could have on their own coastline. I still want to see North Carolina’s Senators come up with a comprehensive plan to work for the continued protection of the North Carolina coasts.

The vast majority of North Carolina’s citizens and legislators (including Republican Senators Dole and Burr) oppose drilling on our coastlines, but are being soft on wether or not to lift the federal ban on the entire Atlantic Coast. The N&O says that another decision is slated to be made by June.

Senator Domenici is also bringing up a bill that would open up swaths of the Gulf. What troubles me is that Senator Burr says that he could see himself supporting that bill. He even said that he would…
…ride the chairman’s coattails.

on the vote.

Opening up Florida worries me, and I’m not the only one.

“It is an avalanche,” said Charter of the Outer Continental Shelf Coalition. “I would suggest that as goes the Gulf Coast of Florida, so goes the coast of North Carolina a short time later.

“These decisions have everything to do with the future of the North Carolina coast.”





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