GOP con­gress­man asks to ex­empt Georgia from oil drilling

The Standard Journal - - LOCAL - By Russ Bynum

A Repub­li­can con­gress­man who for years has touted the po­ten­tial ben­e­fits of ex­panded oil drilling off the U.S. East Coast is now ask­ing the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion to ex­clude his home state of Georgia from its off­shore energy plans.

U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter’s dis­trict in­cludes the 100-mile (160-kilo­me­ter) Georgia coast. In a let­ter Wed­nes­day to act­ing In­te­rior Sec­re­tary David Bern­hardt, Carter re­it­er­ated his sup­port for drilling but said his con­stituents have made it clear they op­pose any oil ex­plo­ration off Georgia’s bar­rier is­lands and salt marshes.

His let­ter came the day af­ter state law­mak­ers in At­lanta ap­proved a res­o­lu­tion against drilling, cit­ing po­ten­tial risks to coastal tourism and com­mer­cial fish­ing. The GOP-con­trolled Georgia House passed the mea­sure 125-36.

“Elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Georgia have voted, and I be­lieve that the fed­eral govern­ment should re­spect the peo­ple of Georgia to make this crit­i­cal de­ci­sion for them­selves,” Carter said in the let­ter. “That is why I write to­day to re­quest that Georgia be ex­cluded from off­shore energy plans un­til the con­cerns of the leg­is­la­ture are ad­dressed.”

The GOP con­gress­man’s re­quest sur­prised en­vi­ron­men­tal ad­vo­cates who have tried for years to sway Carter to ac­knowl­edge drilling’s po­ten­tial threats to ma­rine life and coastal Georgia’s econ­omy.

“Every­body was al­ways afraid their con­cerns were fall­ing on deaf ears,” said Me­gan Des­rosiers, pres­i­dent of the coastal Georgia con­ser­va­tion group 100 Miles. “I’m proud of Con­gress­man Carter for this let­ter be­cause he’s show­ing he is lis­ten­ing and is will­ing to set aside his own per­sonal pref­er­ence for off­shore drilling to rep­re­sent the will of his con­stituents.”

Carter joins a grow­ing list of Georgia of­fi­cials who want the state’s coast­line ex­empted from Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s five-year plan to open 90 per­cent of the na­tion’s off­shore oil re­serves to pri­vate de­vel­op­ment. Newly elected Repub­li­can Gov. Brian Kemp, a Trump ally, has said he also op­poses drilling off Georgia.

May­ors and elected coun­cils of coastal Georgia cities in­clud­ing Sa­van­nah, Ty­bee Is­land, Brunswick, Kings­land and St. Marys have also adopted anti-drilling res­o­lu­tions.

Repub­li­can and Demo­cratic gover­nors from Maine to Florida have widely con­demned Trump’s drilling plan. South Carolina in Jan­uary joined a fed­eral law­suit by 16 of the state’s cities and towns seek­ing to block the seis­mic air­gun tests used to iden­tify po­ten­tial drilling sites. Another sim­i­lar law­suit has been joined by New Jersey, Con­necti­cut, Mary­land, Delaware, Maine, Mas­sachusetts, New York, North Carolina and Virginia.

Op­po­nents say oil spills could foul com­mu­ni­ties that de­pend on com­mer­cial fish­ing and beach tourism. Sup­port­ers say drilling would boost coastal economies.

Carter has been a drilling sup­porter since ex­pand­ing drilling off the East Coast was pro­posed under Pres­i­dent Barack Obama. Even af­ter coastal Georgia cities came out against drilling, Carter in­sisted it had the po­ten­tial to bring thou­sands of jobs while help­ing the U.S. be­come less de­pen­dent on for­eign oil.

“This could cre­ate more than 5,000 jobs in Georgia and raise over $700 mil­lion for the state bud­get by 2035 with rev­enue shar­ing in place,” Carter told The Brunswick News in Fe­bru­ary 2016. In the same interview, he ac­cused “en­vi­ron­men­tal ex­trem­ists” of mak­ing “out­ra­geous claims” about the threat of oil spills.

Paulita Ben­nett-Martin, Georgia cam­paign or­ga­nizer for the con­ser­va­tion group Oceana, said Carter will be an im­por­tant ally be­cause he’s a Georgia Repub­li­can who can reach out di­rectly to the Trump White House.

“Buddy Carter knows how to com­mu­ni­cate with this ad­min­is­tra­tion,” Ben­net­tMartin said. “And I think the way he worded this, he’s bring­ing the mes­sage of his con­stituents forward to the top.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.