Politicians rethink oil drilling for North Carolina

May 6, 2010 3:35:48 PM PDT
As crews work around the clock in the Gulf of Mexico to try and stop oil spewing from a sunken oil platform, the environmental disaster could potentially make it all the way to the coast of North Carolina.

It would take the right combination of weather and oil getting into the Gulf Stream current, but experts say it's possible.

Governor Beverly Perdue says the state is ready if that happens.

"We are very prepared. The state has a really good response system," she told ABC11.

But the Gulf accident has the debate over drilling off North Carolina's coast heating up.

Charter fisherman David Christopher was a staunch advocate of drilling offshore. Now, he's thinking twice - believing oil rigs can never be 100 percent safe.

"There is no guarantee at all I don't think," he said.

Environmentalists agree.

"You have to weigh the possibilities against the potential risk and I think the risk here is extremely high," offered Tracy Skrabal with the NC Coastal Federation.

Governor Perdue was similarly blunt in her assessment of what oil rigs off the North Carolina shores could mean.

"We know, we know without a fact, these things are going to happen. Anyone who thinks it won't happen if we drill of the coast of Carolina hasn't thought it through. This is a part of doing business. We understand that things happen," she said.

Perdue isn't completely opposed to drilling off our shores. She, too, talks of making rigs safe. By safe, she's suggesting that if there is a spill, there's a plan in place to keep the oil from reaching the shore - something she says wasn't the case in the Gulf.

"I find it unconscionable that BP didn't have some kind of recovery plan in place already," said Perdue.

ABC11 spoke with a handful of other North Carolina politicians this week to see if their positions have changed on drilling. Here's a sample of what they had to say:

Senator Kay Hagan, (D) NC:

"My thoughts and prayers are with the families of the oil rig workers who were killed in this tragedy. We need to contain the spill as quickly as possible to mitigate the environmental impact, and get to the bottom of this failure to ensure current and any potential expansion of offshore oil drilling is safe. This disaster off the coast of Louisiana clearly requires an investigation to determine what went wrong. Our North Carolina beaches are an environmental treasure and a significant tourism driver for our state."

Senator Richard Burr, (R) NC:

"I believe, as I have long said, that each state - and the citizens of each state - should be permitted to determine whether or not offshore production should take place, after carefully weighing the benefits and risks involved. Now is not the time to map out the future. Now is the time to contain the leak, begin the cleanup and better understand what failed."

Congressman Brad Miller (D) NC 13th District:

"I am not happy with permitting oil exploration off North Carolina's coast, but the 26-year Congressional moratorium banning increased oil exploration on the United States outer-continental shelf will expire. Should the ban expire, oil exploration could begin within sight of the beaches of North Carolina. North Carolina would gain little from the drilling and could easily lose our tourism industry if there was a spill.

Congressman David Price, (D) NC 4th District:

"We can't drill our way to energy independence, and the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico clearly illustrates the potential perils of this approach. Our economic, energy, and national security all depend on developing American-made, alternative energy sources that can reverse our dependence on oil. Opening up the Outer Continental Shelf to new offshore drilling is not the answer."

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