WASHINGTON — North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley told the state's congressional delegation Wednesday that he wants North Carolina -- not oil companies -- to hold any leases put out for offshore drilling.
His comments come in the wake of a House bill that would open the Outer Continental Shelf to oil drilling. That bill, approved late Tuesday, was supported by nine of the state's 13 House members.
The federal government usually leases acreage to oil companies for several years, putting the leases out to bid and earning money both from fees and a share of oil revenues.
But Easley said North Carolina should get any leases and should not have to pay the federal fees.
"North Carolina's intention is to maintain control over the exploration, drilling and production of this petroleum to guarantee that it benefits our people," Easley wrote in a letter to the delegation.
He added: "Otherwise, in the current legislation, private oil companies could drill and drain these last reserves off our coast long before they have exhausted the supply elsewhere."
The House bill, pushed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, lifts the congressional moratorium on federal offshore drilling.
Many Republicans opposed the bill in part because it does not allow states to share in oil revenues. Opponents say that provision removes the incentives for states to approve drilling within 100 miles of their shores.
The Senate could take up several oil-drilling proposals as early as this week.
In Tuesday's House vote, all seven North Carolina Democrats and two Republicans -- Robin Hayes and Walter Jones -- supported the bill. The other four Republicans from North Carolina were opposed.
In the Senate, Republican Sen. Elizabeth Dole, who is up for re-election, has joined a bipartisan group now called the "Gang of 20" that is pushing for state-by-state decisions on offshore drilling and new incentives for clean energy.
Several politically vulnerable Republicans have joined the group.
Dole's opponent, Democratic state Sen. Kay Hagan, also supports the "Gang of 20" plan.
Meanwhile Republican Sen. Richard Burr has joined a group of GOP leaders who want more options for oil drilling than the bipartisan legislation would encourage.