Gov. Mike Easley said Monday he doesn't want the federal government to allow a possible oil and gas lease sale off the Virginia coast in 2011 because the North Carolina coastline could be harmed by the exploration.
"While it is clear that the United States must become more energy independent, such independence must not come at the cost of the fragile ecosystems and vital tourism economy of our coast," Easley said in a statement quoting the letter.
Easley said any decision involving Virginia would effect North Carolina, but no thorough regional analysis of such exploration has been performed to date. A federal moratorium bans exploration along the East Coast until 2012, but it's possible such an order could be overturned.
North Carolina has fought offshore drilling since the late 1980s, when Mobil Oil held an offshore lease. Congress banned drilling off the Outer Banks in 1990, just before Mobil planned to sink its first exploratory well.
Given North Carolina's support for the moratorium and concern about the effect of drilling, "I respectfully request that you remove any sale off the Virginia coast from consideration," Easley wrote to the Minerals Management Service of the U.S. Department of Interior as it collects comment on its proposed oil and gas leasing program for 2007-2012.
Earlier this year, a Virginia state report recommended that Virginia allow offshore exploration for natural gas and oil deposits but take environmental precautions before taking action.
The federal Minerals Management Service has estimated that the outer continental shelf along the Atlantic coast could hold as much as 33.3 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 3.5 billion barrels of oil. Virginia makes up only 11 percent of that potential, with estimated profits ranging from zero to over $10 billion, that state's report said.
We depend on the oil of foreign way to much.
Top 5 U.S. Crude Oil Importer (Jan, 2006)
Source The Energy Information Administration (EIA)
1 - Canada
2 - Mexico
3 - Saudi Arabia
4 - Venezuela
5 - Nigeria