After President Trump announced he would open the entire US coast to offshore drilling – including areas like North Carolina that have long been off-limits — governors up and down the Eastern Seaboard, immediately condemned the proposal.
Gov. Roy Cooper and Secretary of the Environment Michael Regan both vehemently oppose Trump’s plan. They cite the environmental and economic risks to the state’s fragile coastline, worth billions of dollars in tourism dollars each year.
“Offshore drilling and the seismic testing that would precede it pose environmental and economic risks to North Carolina’s coastal communities that we cannot afford,” Regan said.
Federal and state data show what’s at stake. While additional regulations and safety measures since the 1970s have contributed to the decline in the overall number of petroleum spills, those accidents involving drilling platforms increased from 510 to 564. The number pipeline spills decreased from 207 to 141.
More troubling, though, is the primary cause of spills over the past 15 years: Hurricanes.
The Bureau of Ocean Management attributes these storms – Hurricanes Cindy, Ike, Ivan, Katrina, Lili and Rita – to the spills from 2000-2015. (The recent figures available did not include the major hurricanes of the 2016 and 2017 seasons, including Matthew and Harvey.)
The data sources are the NC Department of Environmental Quality, the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. (https://www.bsee.gov/sites/bsee.gov/files/osrr-oil-spill-response-research/1086aa.pdf) and the Natural Resources Defense Council.
742: Number of offshore petroleum spills involving drilling platforms, pipelines, tankers and barges, US waters, 2001-2015
4.93 million: Minimum number of petroleum barrels spilled over the same period*
11: Oil workers killed in the Deep Water Horizon disaster of 2010
1,100: Miles of Gulf Coast coastline contaminated by the spill
1 million: Approximate number of birds killed as the result of the spill
1,000: Estimated number of sea turtles
5,000: Estimated number of marine mammals, such as dolphins and whales
$700 million: Money lost in fishing and tourism revenues along the Gulf Coast, just six months after the disaster
$22.7 billion: Estimated lost tourism dollars along the Gulf Coast, 2010-2013
$3 billion: Annual economic benefit generated by coastal tourism in North Carolina
30,000: Jobs created by the tourism industry along the coast
$787 million: Annual income generated by commercial and recreational fishers along the coast
$1.96 billion: Annual business sales from the state’s fishing industry
22,500: Jobs created by the fishing industry
326: Miles of ocean beaches
10,000: Miles of estuarine shoreline
22: Number of barrier islands
104: People who spoke at three public hearings last summer about offshore drilling
96: Who opposed offshore drilling
8: Who supported it
*Includes the Deep Water Horizon disaster in 2010