A bill in the North Carolina Senate would create a partnership among several East Coast states for offshore energy production. If passed into law, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia would be in a similar cooperative agreement as Gulf Coast states when it comes to offshore oil and gas drilling.

Essentially the bill, which would require passage in the state legislature and the signature of Gov. Beverly Perdue, would authorize the governor to join a compact with the governors of the above-mentioned states to develop a unified strategy for requesting permits and submitting proposals for offshore oil and gas drilling.

The plan has supporters and critics. The strongest arguments for supporting the bill generally lie in the economy. Republicans supporting the bill claim the measure would create more than 6,700 jobs and $484 million in state and local revenues in North Carolina through 2030. This assumes that North Carolina would get the same share of royalty revenues from drilling as the states on the Gulf Coast get from their agreement. How long it would take for these jobs to become a reality is another variable. One supporter of the bill is already on record acknowledging this concern. “It’s a long-term endeavor. It’s not something that is going to happen next year, but we have to start some time, and we think today is the best day to start,” said N.C. Sen. Harry Brown (R-Onslow) in an Associated Press report.

There are also safety concerns about offshore drilling that are only compounded by poor political timing. Supporters of the bill, known as the Energy Jobs Act, pushed for the bill on the one-year anniversary of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Reminders of the Gulf disaster have unearthed concerns that any economic gain made by the drilling industry could be a loss for tourism in the Southeast. Supporters of the bill say 6,000 jobs would be gained, but opponents point out that 185,000 jobs in North Carolina come from the tourism industry. That will be an important balance for the governor to consider.

Perdue has a bit of a checkered history with offshore drilling. In 2008, she opposed offshore exploration efforts, but during her gubernatorial campaign she did a flip-flop. As governor, Perdue organized a panel of experts to advise her on offshore drilling, wind and solar projects. Now she has a decision to make.

What do you think she should do? Let me know in the comments section below.

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