EDENTON — U.S. Sen. Richard Burr says despite the BP pipeline leak that’s spewed millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, he’s not ready to abandon the idea of drilling for oil off North Carolina’s coast.
Burr, interviewed in Edenton Wednesday morning, said he still supports offshore drilling, provided the extraction is done responsibly.
“Thirty percent of our petroleum comes from the Gulf,” Burr said. “For us to write off offshore drilling means our obligation to the Middle East is a long-term economic and national defense issue.”
Burr said the nation’s current focus should be on stopping the leak and completing the cleanup of the environmental disaster before debating the future of offshore drilling.
Burr also expressed support for the various governmental probes that are looking into what caused the disaster and whether it could have been prevented.
“It’s absolutely essential for us to understand what went wrong,” Burr said. “I can’t tell you today whether a federal regulator turned their back or a company cut some corners they shouldn’t have.”
According to the Associated Press, government officials estimate that the leak, which started six weeks ago, has now dumped anywhere from 21 million to 45 million gallons of oil into the gulf. Meanwhile, BP’s latest efforts to plug the leak ran into a snag and an oil slick from the disaster began approaching the Florida panhandle.
Burr was in Edenton
Wednesday for tours of the newly renovated Cupola House and local employers Colony Tire and Jimbo Jumbos. He also participated in a radio interview conducted by 103.7 WTIB-FM talk show host and Chowan County native Henry Hinton.
Burr also addressed the nation’s economic recession. Despite a few bright spots, the senator projects a slow recovery until more emphasis is placed on job creation.
“I think we’re seeing an uptick,” Burr said. “The question is will we have consistent growth that’s enough to begin the employment of the American people? My fear is that we’re going to be in a period of anemic growth.”
Because of international financial woes, Burr said the ripple effect could adversely affect America’s economic recovery, especially employment.
“The difficulty with the second half of the year is the international financial meltdown,” Burr said.
Referring to the Obama administration’s $787 billion stimulus package, which he voted against, Burr said he’d like to see more of the funding spent on job creation.
“I’d love to see this administration refocus the money in this stimulus package that’s currently unobligated and refocus on things that we know have an impact on job creation,” he said. “Plant equipment expansion is what creates jobs.”
Hinton asked Burr about Gov. Bev Perdue’s efforts to convince him to help find more stimulus funds for the state.
“We’re just not in a position as a federal government to create a second stimulus package,” Burr said. “I don’t think it’s the role of the federal government to come to the aid of states and bail them out.”
If the government granted economic aid on the basis of need, Burr said states like California, New York, and Illinois would qualify before North Carolina.
Burr said North Carolina already has the tools to be successful once the recovery is fully under way.
“States like North Carolina have got the infrastructure to attract 21st century employers,” he said. “We’re seeing investments in North Carolina. It’s just going to be a little slower than a state with 10 percent unemployment needs right now.”
Burr, who voted against the health care reform legislation, said he will continue to fight against the bill’s slated implementation in 2014. He said citizen opposition to the measure continues to grow and that supporters now concede that the costs of reform will be significantly higher than first projected.
“As a country, we’re out of money,” Burr said. “We cannot continue to spend money the way we do.”
Burr also defended his recent vote against legislation that supporters say would have made the way Wall Street firms conduct business more transparent.
Burr said while he supports the bill’s call for transparency on Wall Street, that part of the measure got lost in other, cumbersome provisions.
“It was worse than the health care bill,” Burr said, pointing out that the bill creates a new consumer protection agency without oversight jurisdiction. He claimed the bill also would allow access to the personal data of every American.
“This is a huge breach of protection of private records,” he said. “One has to question whether it was true Wall Street reform.”
Burr said only three institutions — Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, and Citibank — supported the legislation. Small businesses, on the other hand, would have been hurt by the measure, he said.
“I think Wall Street’s assessment was that they’re going to make a tremendous amount of money on this reform,” Burr said. “I think the unintended consequence will be the tightening of credit for small businesses when we should be opening the spigots for credit for plant expansion and job creation.”
Late Wednesday afternoon, Burr’s support for the 2005 Central American Free Trade Agreement came under attack from state Democratic officials.
A press release from Andrew Whalen, executive director of the N.C. Democratic Party, characterized Edenton as a victim of Burr’s vote for CAFTA. The release claimed that the Edenton-based George C. Moore Company closed as the result of the bill’s passage, eliminating 200 jobs.
A Burr spokesman defended the senator’s vote for CAFTA, citing his work to retool the language in the original version. After those changes, the National Council of Textile Organizations endorsed the agreement and Burr voted for it, the Burr spokesman said.
Burr will face the winner of the June 22 Democratic Party runoff between Elaine Marshall and Cal Cunningham.
said he plans to rely on his record of keeping promises in his re-election bid this fall.