President Donald Trump announced a 10-year moratorium on offshore drilling off the coasts of Georgia, Florida and South Carolina last week. It appears on the surface to be a win for concerned environmentalists, but citizens in North Carolina are left wondering: Why were North Carolina coasts left unprotected?
The federal government holds the power to lease waters for drilling more than three nautical miles off the coast. Drilling has never occurred in the state’s deeper waters, and past administrations — including those of George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton — have banned offshore drilling entirely along the Atlantic coast. However, since 2015, the federal government has flipped back and forth between allowing and banning drilling along the Atlantic coastline, culminating in Trump’s most recent decision. Geophysical services companies have already expressed interest in seismic testing for North Carolina’s resources. U.K.-based company WesternGeco recently withdrew an application for testing that it filed with the Bureau of Ocean and Energy Management, but other companies have applied. Coastal communities have expressed concern for wildlife and the tourism industry should seismic testing and offshore drilling commence. Host Frank Stasio talks with Lisa Sorg, environmental reporter for the progressive news organization NC Policy Watch, and Stan Riggs, distinguished research professor of geology at Eastern Carolina University, about history and recent events surrounding offshore drilling in the state.