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Sussex County business owners share concerns about possible offshore drilling

Sarah Mueller

Sussex County business leaders voiced their concerns Thursday about oil and gas drilling off Delaware’s coast to a top U.S. Interior Department official.

Interior Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt attended a roundtable hosted by Gov. John Carney and area business owners in Rehoboth Beach.

Carney and other Delaware lawmakers have joined a group of coastal states opposing the Interior Department’s plan to open nearly all U.S. waters to oil and gas drilling. The Delaware Nature Society argues offshore drilling could negatively impact horseshoe crabs and shoreline bird migration.

Carney said he supports legislation sponsored by State Sen. Ernie Lopez to ban drilling in the First State’s coastal zone.

“So we’ll see where that goes as well," he said. "But we’re going to stand firm in our position, working with other governors and I made a point of mentioning the other governors, particularly the Republican governors.”

Bernhardt added that companies have not expressed much interest in drilling off the East Coast. He notes that and other factors will be taken into consideration.

“I do know by the end of the day, we’ll have winnowed it down to where it makes sense for local communities, for states and for our country overall,” he said.

Bernhardt said the Interior Department is meeting with governors across the county to address their concerns. The next public comment period on the offshore drilling plan will likely be in late fall.

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