FILE- In this Nov. 17, 2017, U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter speaks to reporters at the Port of Savannah, Ga. Carter has asked the Trump administration to exclude the Georgia coast from its plans for expanding offshore oil drilling. Carter’s letter to acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt on Wednesday April 3, 2019, came a day after Georgia state lawmakers passed a resolution opposing offshore drilling, saying it could harm tourism and commercial fishing. Russ Bynum

GOP congressman asks to exempt Georgia from oil drilling

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — A Republican congressman who for years has touted the potential benefits of expanded oil drilling off the U.S. East Coast is now asking the Trump administration to exclude his home state of Georgia from its offshore energy plans.

U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter's district includes the 100-mile (160-kilometer) Georgia coast. In a letter Wednesday to acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, Carter reiterated his support for drilling but said his constituents have made it clear they oppose any oil exploration off Georgia's barrier islands and salt marshes.

His letter came the day after state lawmakers in Atlanta approved a resolution against drilling, citing potential risks to coastal tourism and commercial fishing. The GOP-controlled Georgia House passed the measure 125-36.

"Elected representatives of Georgia have voted, and I believe that the federal government should respect the people of Georgia to make this critical decision for themselves," Carter said in the letter. "That is why I write today to request that Georgia be excluded from offshore energy plans until the concerns of the legislature are addressed."

The GOP congressman's request surprised environmental advocates who have tried for years to sway Carter to acknowledge drilling's potential threats to marine life and coastal Georgia's economy.

"Everybody was always afraid their concerns were falling on deaf ears," said Megan Desrosiers, president of the coastal Georgia conservation group 100 Miles. "I'm proud of Congressman Carter for this letter because he's showing he is listening and is willing to set aside his own personal preference for offshore drilling to represent the will of his constituents."

Carter joins a growing list of Georgia officials who want the state's coastline exempted from President Donald Trump's five-year plan to open 90 percent of the nation's offshore oil reserves to private development. Newly elected Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, a Trump ally, has said he also opposes drilling off Georgia.

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