RICHMOND, Va., Oct. 30 (UPI) -- Industry supporters have started an ad blitz in southern U.S. states, arguing offshore oil and gas exploration can exist side-by-side with the environment.
North Carolina Petroleum Council Executive Director David McGowan is among those behind a campaign organized with the help of the American Petroleum Industry. McGowan and others say opening Atlantic basins up to oil and gas drillers would bring net benefits to the region.
"With new technologies, offshore energy development is safer than ever and continues to drive coastal U.S. economies while existing with tourism and fishing," McGowan said in a statement.
The U.S. Interior Department in February released a draft proposal for 2017-22 for access to federal waters. Ten leases are planned for the Gulf of Mexico, three for offshore Alaska and one, a debut, for waters in the Atlantic.
The National Ocean Industries Association, an industry group lobbying for more offshore work, said about 1.34 million barrels of oil equivalent per day could be produced from the Atlantic basin by 2035.
Advocacy group Oceana instead found an offshore wind energy sector in the Atlantic could produce more energy than those reserves while creating about 91,000 jobs, which it says is about double what would come from regional offshore oil and gas work.
Virginia Petroleum Council Executive Director Mike Ward said the energy industry, however, already supports about 140,000 jobs in the state and adds more than $7 billion to state coffers.
Florida lawmakers in early 2015 worked to introduce a ban on oil and gas work off the state coast, saying an early push for east coast drilling was too risky. Critics of the plan include Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., who said threats from Atlantic energy work may have "catastrophic" impacts on the region and his state, which depends heavily on coastal tourism.