Hundreds from NC coast travel to Raleigh to oppose offshore drilling

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Buses carried hundreds of people from Wilmington, Morehead City and the Outer Banks to Raleigh on Monday in order to protest proposed offshore drilling along the Carolina coast.

The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) held its North Carolina state public meeting Monday for the 2019-2024 National Outer Continental Shelf Oil & Gas Leasing Program and Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement Process.

BOEM staffers are hosting information sessions in the capital city of each coastal state.


“What we’re really trying to do is inform the public so the comments that they provide can speak to those factors, so they’re much more informed comments and much more impactful comments,” strategic resources chief Renee Orr said.

“From where we are now to when there might be some drilling and some production is 10 to 15 years into the future.”

Most protesters expressed dissatisfaction that the meeting happened hours away from the coastal communities, which are closest to the drilling area. They said they want to be heard in their hometowns.

“We appreciate each and every one of you that have taken time away from your jobs, time away from your family, to be here today to voice your opinion. It’s unbelievable that we are here today to have a rally and we can’t even make public comment to BOEM,” Dare County Commissioner Bob Woodard said.

Some supporters of the proposed project also made long drives to endorse offshore drilling.

James Fletcher is a retired commercial fisherman, who said support from oil companies helped him and others build their fleets and move off shore.

“The commercial fishing industry has always worked with oil. We don’t always get along with them, but we always work with them. We need these jobs out there,” Fletcher said. “We need the energy. I want to see the price of fuel back down.”

Members of the North Carolina Energy Forum, including the North Carolina Petroleum Council (NCPC) and North Carolina Vets4Energy, met before the BOEM open house to give their backing to offshore energy development.

Their main arguments for drilling is to create jobs and take advantage of United States assets rather than rely on other countries.

“(We) understand the beauty of our coast and the value tourism brings to our economy. We also understand that our economy needs affordable and reliable oil and natural gas in order for our state to prosper,” NCPC executive director David McGowan said.

“Instead of saying not in my backyard, and pushing development to areas of the world where environmental protection and safety regulations are not as robust, North Carolina should embrace the opportunity to benefit from homegrown energy supplies,” McGowan added.

People against the project said it could potentially destroy more jobs than it creates.

“We have a $3.4 billion industry in tourism with 36,000 jobs right now, today. That industry is at great risk with offshore drilling,” Outer Banks Tourism Board director Lee Nettles said.

“It is a possibility that those two industries could co-exist, but it’s just as easily a possibility that there will be spills, a potentially catastrophic spill that simply we would not recover from.”

Johms Gool, a drilling supporter from Charlotte, said all voices deserve to be heard, but the state’s economy must grow and its citizens should help with that as much as they can.

Renee Orr, the strategic resources chief for BOEM, said the turnout of both sides is taken into consideration.

However, she said that it is not a case where whichever side shows up with more people will win. BOEM will consider a variety of elements including environmental factors, economic factors, other uses of the area, the geology of the area, the interest of oil and gas companies, and the laws and policies of each state.

There is a Virtual Meeting Room for people unable to attend one of the scheduled meetings, which conclude March 8 in Alabama.


...[READ MORE]   Source:¬†WNCN Durham County News