In this May 13, 2010 file photo, pelicans float on the water with an offshore oil platform in the background off the coast of Santa Barbara, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)
Photo: Contributing columnist
Photo: Contributing columnist

Georgia governor concerned about offshore drilling marring ‘pristine’ coastline

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal said Wednesday he’s concerned about the Trump administration’s decision to allow new offshore oil and gas drilling in coastal Georgia and much of the rest of the nation’s coastal waters. 

The governor’s office said in a statement that he has “some concerns with opening up Georgia’s pristine coastlines which he will convey to the congressional delegation.” It’s not immediately clear if he will seek an exemption from the plan to lift a ban on drilling that was imposed by President Barack Obama.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said the plan was part of a “new path for energy dominance in America” and prompted stiff opposition from governors from both parties on the coasts. The critics include the governors of North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.

One of the most outspoken opponents, Florida Gov. Rick Scott, won a reprieve from the order this week. The Trump administration announced this week it had ruled out drilling for oil and gas offshore Florida because, Zinke said, “its coasts are heavily reliant on tourism as an economic driver.”

U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson indicated he could be open to drilling off the coast of Georgia but that tourism, ecology and the wishes of local stakeholders must be considered. 

“There’s a lot of due diligence to do,” the Republican said in an interview Wednesday. 

“I think it’s a possibility that there’s a way that it could be done that was judicious and made sense but you’ve got to make sure the environment, the investment that Georgia has already made … are protected.”

U.S. Sen. David Perdue’s office said in a statement he’s broadly supportive of “advancing all-of-the above energy solutions that will grow our economy and benefit all Americans as long as this is done responsibly.”

Dozens of Atlantic coastal communities, including Savannah, Brunswick and St. Marys, have signed resolutions in past years opposing exploration due to environmental, tourism and fishing concerns. And environmentalists are firmly opposed to the changes. 

Some supporters say the potential economic development benefits outweigh the costs. Timothy Considine, an energy economist, reported in 2015 that oil and gas drilling off Georgia’s coast could create as many as 6,500 jobs and add $250 million annually to state coffers by 2035.