Burr, Tillis push offshore drilling

Posted January 22, 2015 6:59 p.m. EST

— North Carolina's two U.S. senators don't just want access to Canadian oil, they want to drill off the state's coast.

Republican Sens. Richard Burr and Thom Tillis on Thursday filed a proposal to require the government to set up procedures by 2017 for leasing, exploring and developing offshore oil and natural gas resources in the Atlantic Ocean off the U.S. coast from Delaware to Florida. The proposal was in an amendment to legislation that would allow the Keystone XL pipeline to run down the middle of the U.S. from Canada to the Gulf Coast.

A recent study by Quest Offshore Resources found that offshore energy exploration and development could support more than 55,000 jobs in North Carolina and generate nearly $4 billion in state government revenue from 2017 to 2035, the senators said.

Under the proposal, states would receive 37.5 percent of all revenue collected from oil exploration, including leasing bids, rents and royalties. Another 12.5 percent of the revenue would be directed to the Land & Water Conservation Fund. The legislation prohibits any oil or gas lease within 30 miles of the nearest coastline and requires that exploration be conducted in a way that considers the impact on marine, coastal and human environments.

"Families across America are too familiar with the impact energy prices play on our day-to-day lives," Tillis said in his first statement on the Senate floor. "When utility bills and gas prices increase, hard-working Americans face hardship and struggle to make ends meet. We need to make that easier and lift the burden off those hard-working taxpayers."

Gov. Pat McCrory, who has been pushing for expanded offshore energy production, praised the amendment.

"Responsibly exploring oil and gas reserves off our coast has the potential to make North Carolina a leader in energy, move America closer to energy independence and create jobs," McCrory said in a statement.