Commentary

North Carolina should copy this New Jersey law right away

In the ongoing battle against the Trump administration’s plan to introduce offshore oil and gas exploration and drilling along the coasts of  North Carolina and other Atlantic states, there’s been an assumption that the fight was entirely a federal matter. Now, however, thanks to some smart people in New Jersey, it’s clear that there is a path forward for state officials to take useful action as well. Natasha Geiling at Think Progress explains:

“On Tuesday, in response to the Trump administration’s recent push to open up nearly all federal waters to offshore drilling, legislators in New Jersey unanimously passed a bill banning offshore oil and gas development in state waters. The bill also bans infrastructure in state waters that would support drilling in federal waters off the state’s coast.

The bill now goes to New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy’s (D) desk for his signature. Murphy, who has been an outspoken critic of the Trump administration’s plans to open the North Atlantic to oil and gas development, is expected to sign the bill into law.

While states can’t prohibit the federal government from opening up federal waters to oil and gas development, it can control the kind of industry and infrastructure allowed in state waters. State waters run several miles out from the coast (anywhere from three to nine nautical miles, depending), and federal waters extend roughly 200 nautical miles from the end of state waters.

Prohibiting infrastructure needed for drilling in federal waters means that companies couldn’t build things like pipelines or docking facilities in state waters, which would complicate efforts to extract oil and gas from federal waters offshore. Without being able to rely on infrastructure in state waters, oil and gas companies would have to utilize massive floating storage stations and transfer the oil directly onto ships for market — equipment and steps that are expensive, especially at a time when the price of oil is relatively low….

Beyond prohibiting oil and gas drilling and infrastructure in state waters, the bill would also require the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to review any plans for development off the Atlantic coast, even if that development were to take place in federal waters.

If the department found that the development could impact New Jersey state waters, it would be compelled to conduct a consistency review. Under the Coastal Zonal Management Act, states can review offshore oil and gas exploration to make sure that it’s consistent with state objectives. If a state finds a particular activity inconsistent with its policies, it can serve as a major blockade for the federal government opening up offshore waters to private oil and gas development.”

Sounds like an obvious idea for drilling opponents to push in North Carolina and for lawmakers to enact this May when the General Assembly returns to Raleigh.

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