Big day for environmentalists and anyone who generally doesn’t like the idea of tarballs washing up onto their shores: The Obama administration announced this morning that it had reversed course on its plan for oil and gas drilling in the southeast Atlantic coast. There will be no drilling off the coasts of Virginia, Georgia, South Carolina, or North Carolina under the new plan.

The administration’s original decision to open up the waters to drilling, announced last year, was met with a flood of opposition. Over a hundred coastal cities, including more than twenty-five communities in North Carolina, passed resolutions against offshore oil exploration and development, citing environmental concerns and the overall threat to tourism and fishing industries.

“It was a huge grassroots movement that we think had a real impact on the president’s decision,” Liz Kazal, field director of Environment North Carolina, tells the INDY.

Notably, Gov. Pat McCrory was a big fan of drilling off the North Carolina coast. He and other southeastern governors supported it on the grounds of job creation and tax revenue. McCrory was outspoken about his desire for the Obama administration to eliminate the fifty-mile buffer between potential drilling sites and the North Carolina coastline.


The North Carolina League of Conservation Voters notes that “tens of thousands of North Carolinians signed letters demanding that Governor McCrory protect critical coastal jobs and industries, including tourism and fishing, that support North Carolina families. Gov. McCrory chose to ignore, rather than protect, his constituents by siding with polluters over people, just as he has done throughout his time as governor.”

Molly Diggins, state director of the N.C. Sierra Club, cheered the move. “Our coast is a natural treasure that belongs to all North Carolinians,” Diggins says in a release. “It is also a strong economic engine that is largely driven by tourism and fishing industries. If an oil spill occurred—like the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico—off our coast, the results would be devastating to our state’s economy and beaches.”