More than 125 people attended an organizational meeting for opposing offshore oil drilling and seismic surveys in Wilmington on June 6, and attendees left the meeting energized and ready to start taking action.
The North Carolina Coastal Federation, Oceana, the Cape Fear Chapter of the N.C. Sierra Club and the Cape Fear Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation sponsored the meeting. Experts and advocates from the organizations spoke about why offshore oil drilling and seismic surveys would have negative economic and environmental consequences for the North Carolina coast. More than 100 “Don’t Drill NC” signs were handed out, and attendees volunteered to write letters and contact legislators.
“The people who attended this meeting were already downright mad we were facing this issue again. What was encouraging about the meeting is people stood up and volunteered to lead this grassroots group to take the fight to our leaders in Raleigh and in Washington, D.C.,” said Mike Giles the federation’s coastal advocate in the Wrightsville Beach office. “Not only were they upset, but willing to do whatever it takes to protect our coast and the resources which make it so important to everyone in North Carolina, and I feel confident we will prevail again with the awesome people power that was displayed last night.”
The meeting was held in response to the executive order that directed the U.S. Department of Interior to review locations for offshore oil and gas exploration, including areas off the Atlantic, which had been removed for consideration in late 2016.
The department has already started moving forward in answer to that executive order, as NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) issued a public notice requesting comment on seismic surveys earlier this week. The notice describes the potential harm to marine mammals and provides information on the companies that have applied for permits to perform seismic surveys.
New Hanover County Commissioner Rob Zapple attended the meeting and also spoke out against offshore oil drilling and seismic surveys. He noted that the tourism industry has brought in $500 million to the county.
And a recent report from the National Park Service reinforced the economic benefits of preserving natural places. It found that in North Carolina’s coastal counties, the national parks and seashores contributed $215 million in visitor spending to the coastal economy.
These places and the tourism industry would be at risk should offshore oil drilling and seismic surveys be allowed off the North Carolina coast. An oil spill would have catastrophic consequences for the coastal economy and environment, and seismic surveys are known to interfere with fisheries and negatively affect commercial and recreational fishing.
When the North Carolina coast was last up for consideration for offshore oil drilling, residents and local governments rallied, and 32 local governments passed resolutions against offshore oil drilling and/or seismic surveys. Ultimately, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management removed the Atlantic coast from consideration, and in its decision, it cited local opposition as a reason to not pursue offshore oil and gas exploration off the Atlantic coast.
For more information on offshore oil drilling, please visit nccoast.org/oil. More information on seismic surveys is available at nccoast.org/seismic. For further information on the commenting process contact Mike Giles in our Wrightsville Beach office at email@example.com or 910-509-2838.