Share story

ATLANTA (AP) — Gov. Nathan Deal said Friday that he won’t take a position on President Donald Trump’s plan to allow oil drilling off the Georgia coast until a state agency studies the “pros and cons.”

Deal told WTOC-TV in an interview that he’s asked the state Department of Natural Resources to report to him on the potential benefits and risks of drilling off Georgia’s 100 miles (160 kilometers) of coast.

“I would prefer to have the facts and I look forward to receiving the recommendations from our Department of Natural Resources,” Deal said. “Their environmental divisions are very sensitive to these issues and I feel sure they will do an in-depth study of what the pros and cons would be if we were to have offshore drilling off the coast of the state of Georgia.”

Deal stands alone among the 22 governors of coastal U.S. states in that he has refrained from taking a firm position for or against Trump’s plan to allow private companies to drill in waters of the coastal U.S. that are currently off-limits to oil exploration.

The plan has drawn bipartisan opposition from 15 governors of coastal states, while six say they support drilling. On the East Coast, only GOP Gov. Paul LePage of Maine has embraced drilling.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, was promised an exemption from the drilling plan when he came out against it. GOP Gov. Henry McMaster of South Carolina, Georgia’s northern neighbor, wants his state exempted too.

In Georgia, a bipartisan group of lawmakers is pushing resolutions in the state House and Senate that would declare the legislature opposed to Trump’s drilling plan. They say an oil spill could devastate tourism and fishing on the coast. Several coastal Georgia cities including Savannah, Brunswick and Tybee Island have adopted similar anti-drilling resolutions.

Deal said the agency’s drilling study will begin soon. He did not say how long it’s expected to take.

“They recognize this is an issue that is out there right now,” Deal said. “As soon as we can get the right documentation to support whatever position Georgia takes, I look forward to that.”