Politics & Government

Myrick urges  oil drilling  off N.C. coast 

Drivers upset with high gas prices could find relief off the N.C. coast, U.S. Rep. Sue Myrick said Thursday.

Using a gas station as a backdrop, the Charlotte Republican renewed calls for oil and gas drilling off the Atlantic Coast. Drilling is now prohibited under a longstanding moratorium. And reefs off the Carolinas are part of a massive, underwater national park reportedly under consideration by President Bush.

“I'm as frustrated as the next person when it comes to filling up my car,” she said, overlooking pumps selling regular for $3.99. “One of the things we need to do is use more of our own resources.”

Myrick has introduced the Deep Ocean Energy Resources Act of 2008. It would give states authority to permit drilling within 100 miles of their coast, while allowing the federal government to lease sites beyond 100 miles. The moratorium is in effect until 2012.

A bill similar to Myrick's passed the then-Republican controlled House largely along party lines in 2006. It did not make it through the Senate. She said she thinks this time will be different.

“People are paying $4 a gallon for gasoline,” she said. “They weren't in 2006.”

Myrick said technology has made offshore drilling safe. Critics disagree.

Drilling “would be environmentally harmful even there aren't catastrophic oil spills,” said Elizabeth Ouzts, statewide director of Environment North Carolina. “Oil drilling operations regularly release mercury and other harmful substances.”

Myrick's 9th District opponent, Democrat Harry Taylor, agrees. He said drilling would come with “enormous environmental costs” for “a short-term supply of gas.”

“(It would) encourage people in this country to believe that we can drill our way out of the high costs of powering our vehicles today,” he said, “and we can't.”

Myrick aides pointed to a Gallup Poll released Wednesday that shows 57 percent of Americans favor drilling in coastal and wilderness areas currently off limits. Myrick said she's driven in part by the fact that Cuba has leased drilling rights to China and Spain in waters 50 miles off Florida.

“That's our oil!” Myrick said in a rising voice. “China already has our jobs. Are we going to give them our oil, too?”