09 • 28 • 2020

North Carolina Added to Southeast States Drilling Moratorium

By Sarah Damron

The federal waters offshore of North Carolina have been withdrawn from consideration for offshore oil and gas leasing, joining the block of Southeast U.S. states for which a 10-year withdrawal has recently been established. The withdrawal of North Carolina was promulgated by Presidential Executive Memorandum on September 25, 2020, with the moratorium spanning from July 1, 2022 to June 30, 2032.
This withdrawal is an achievement rightfully attributed to the people of North Carolina, who have been relentlessly vigilant and vocal in their decade-long efforts to prevent drilling off the North Carolina coast. Federal waters off North Carolina were included in consideration for lease by both the Trump and Obama administrations during the development of their respective five year Outer Continental Shelf oil and gas leasing programs. 
However, the Mid-Atlantic and most other U.S. regions are still slated for new oil and gas lease sales under the Trump administration's draft 5 year offshore drilling plan. Furthermore, the federal government recently clarified that the moratorium off the South Atlantic coast doesn’t stop companies from requesting to conduct harmful seismic surveys for oil in those waters. Until the Trump administration and Congress permanently ban new offshore oil and gas development, North Carolina and other states will continue to be threatened by the risks and impacts of this destructive industry.
David Jacobs, Chair of Surfrider Foundation Cape Fear, notes “This milestone is welcome news to North Carolinians after years of fighting to be heard—from writing letters to commenting at meetings to passage of local resolutions opposing drilling, and repeated visits to decision-makers in Washington D.C. But North Carolina is not an island, and the withdrawal of North Carolina alone, on a temporary basis, is not what we have been fighting for. We don’t want to have to fight this battle again, at the whims of presidential administrations and partisan politicking. We are calling for permanent protection, for waters off North Carolina and all states, now.”
“We are encouraged to hear the news about North Carolina being added to the moratorium, however, oil spills have no boundaries and we need to protect the ocean as a whole,” says Tamara Warren, Chair of Surfrider Foundation Outer Banks. “We will remain vigilant in our fight to stop all drilling.”
The dangers posed by seismic blasting and drilling anywhere along our nation’s coast remain a direct threat to North Carolina's oceans and beaches, coastal ecology, and economy, from the massive statewide fisheries and tourism industries to mom-and-pop surf shops. Furthermore, the glaring effects of climate change—including more frequent and more intense hurricanes—will continue if we don't leave the remaining underground oil and gas across our country's coastal regions right where it is.

North Carolinians will continue to push for permanent protection of the coast from offshore oil and gas drilling and exploration. Surfrider Foundation calls on the Trump Administration to commit more timely (now!) and fully, both in geographic extent and permanence, to a nationwide moratorium on offshore oil and gas development. Surfrider also calls on the Senate to pass HR 1941 and HR 2015, which have already been passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, to permanently ban new offshore drilling in the Atlantic, Pacific and Eastern Gulf of Mexico.  Such an action would demonstrate a true commitment, faithful to the will of the people.