In January 2015, the Obama administration unveiled a plan to open the southeastern Atlantic Ocean to oil and gas exploration and development. As co-chair of the Atlantic Offshore Energy Caucus, I welcomed the proposal as one of many steps that need to be taken to unleash our natural resources, create jobs and boost our economy.
It seemed like the administration was listening to calls from members of Congress, state leaders — including our Gov. Pat McCrory — and Americans who are anxious for more jobs.
While I was excited for the opportunity to open our state to energy exploration, I also knew that we faced bureaucratic hoops and an uphill rulemaking process that could take the Atlantic lease sale completely off the table. Unfortunately, I was right.
Last week, the administration changed course and announced the Atlantic would remain off-limits to job creation through energy exploration. It seems our president is focused on his radical climate legacy and has disregarded his commitment to the economic needs of the American people. This reversal is an affront to states like North Carolina who simply want to explore our own energy potential.
Despite the announcement, I remain committed to getting North Carolina into the energy business which is why I introduced the North Carolina Opening Fossil Fuels Safely and Harnessing Opportunities for Robust Employment (NC OFFSHORE) Act.
This bill requires the administration to make available one lease sale off North Carolina’s coast every year for five years. This mandate begins two years after enactment. In addition, it protects military operations by allowing the Department of Defense to make certain areas off limits to exploration and allows coastal states to receive revenue from offshore energy projects.
The fact of the matter is, our economy is sputtering along and too many folks are struggling to find jobs. According to the Department of Interior, there are at least 3.3 billion barrels of recoverable oil on the Atlantic’s outer continental shelf and more than 31 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. And other experts say these resources could be far greater.
Responsibly accessing these resources has the potential to support more than 55,000 jobs in our state and contribute nearly $3 billion in new revenue that could be used to protect our environment and restore critical habitats.
Clearly, the challenge is not finding these resources, but in man-made government regulatory hurdles that prohibit us from going and getting them. This legislation is crucial to open our state to energy exploration, unlock jobs and strengthen our energy security while protecting our environment.
Take a look at states like North Dakota and you can see the positive impact domestic exploration has on a region and the lives of people living there. It has the potential to keep energy costs low for families and businesses and empower manufacturers to grow. It will boost our infrastructure development, revitalize our factories and create new jobs and opportunities across our state.
I can assure you that I will be vigilant and work to guarantee that North Carolina and the 8th District benefit from drilling off our coasts, from creating construction jobs to attracting new manufacturers. As your representative, I pledge I will continue to work to create an environment for more opportunity and prosperity.
Rep. Richard Hudson, R-Concord, represents North Carolina’s 8th Congressional District.