Sen. Thom Tillis and Sen. Richard Burr, both Republicans, jointly filed an amendment to the Keystone XL pipeline bill — yet to be passed — which would open states like Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina and Virginia to offshore oil development.
The plan is estimated to provide 55,000 jobs, as well as lower utility costs within North Carolina, Tillis and Burr said in a statement on Jan. 22. It also included a measure for revenue sharing, outlining a 37.5 percent share of all Outer Continental Shelf leasing transactions to go directly to states.
Laura Taylor, director of the N.C. State University Center for Environmental and Resource Economic Policy, said even with revenue sharing — now exclusively available to few Gulf states — there’s little benefit to North Carolinians.
“(It) will not change the price of gasoline at all. That’s one thing we know for sure. It’s like opening up one more McDonald’s in the Triangle is not going to change the price of any hamburgers in the Triangle,” she said.
Taylor, a member of a 2010 N.C. subcommittee on offshore oil exploration, said she questions whether jobs would go to North Carolina or to the better-equipped Virginia.
To compete with Virginia, Taylor said North Carolina would need to further develop ports like Morehead City and Wilmington.
Jon Sanders, director of regulatory studies at the right-leaning John Locke Foundation, said he expects a favorable response to the recent proposals for offshore drilling.
“I don’t know how much of (a response) is just going to be a knee-jerk partisan reaction,” he said.
Just days after the Tillis-Burr amendment, the Department of the Interior released plans for offshore drilling and oil exploration — which Taylor said has long been on the table for the Obama administration.
These areas, previously unopened to leasing and development in the administration’s 2012-2017 leasing program, would include North Carolina and Virginia.
But despite the White House’s 50-mile buffer from the coast, Christopher Martens, a UNC marine sciences professor, said he worries about additional oil exploration.
Martens said the coast of North Carolina along the western sides of the ocean basins has the roughest currents, making the potential drill sites very dynamic environments.
He said technological readiness is a concern, after problems arose from the British Petroleum oil spill.
Martens said in the subcommittee — which delivered its final report just two weeks before the BP spill — that offshore drilling was not entirely safe, citing the statistic that every other day a major oil or gas leak occurs somewhere in the world.
There is a possibility of oil-rich mud north of Cape Hatteras, but Martens said he is firmly against drilling on the N.C. coast.
“Why choose to drill now?” he said. “It’s economically viable but for who? The answer is for the current generation who (is) making the investment — but what about your generation or the one after that?”