OBX Opposition to Offshore Drilling Gets Organized
By Kip Tabb –
Held in a private residence in Nags Head on Wednesday evening, Not the Answer NC gathered concerned residents to discuss the upcoming Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) scoping meeting scheduled for Monday March 16 at the Ramada Plaza, Kill Devil Hills from 3:00 p.m.-6:00 p.m. The purpose of the BOEM meeting is to solicit public opinion for an upcoming Environmental Impact Statement on offering leases for the purpose of developing gas and oil wells.
The BOEM permitting process is complex and and time consuming and the ultimate purpose of the scoping meetings is to solicit public opinion before leases are sold. Until recently, the Atlantic Seaboard from the Delaware Bay to North Florida was not available for leasing. In 2012, the Federal Government started the process of allowing development of fossil fuel resources if they are available.
With more than 20 concerned residents gathered together, representatives from Not the Answer NC and the North Carolina Coastal Federation discussed the process and how as individuals the people in the room could be most effective.
Ladd Bayliss, Coastal Advocate for the Coastal Federation, spoke first, outlining what the goal of the government’s process is. “The way BOEM is set up when they site drilling rigs it is done with the least negative impact on the environment,” she said.
She pointed out, though, that BOEM’s real responsibility is to insure a complete analysis of what would happen if there was an oil spill, an assessment of the marine ecology of the area under consideration and the impacts of construction and drilling and the socioeconomic impacts on coastal communities.
It was apparent from the remarks made by the participants that they did not feel there would be any benefit to the Outer Banks tourist driven economy; in fact, they repeatedly expressed concern that the only impact would be negative.
The economic impact on a tourist driven economy seems to be one of the weakest points of the current evaluation according to the speakers. “How would a spill and drilling infrastructure effect our community,” Bayliss asked. “That was the one thing that was glaringly absent. There were very very few studies done on how it would effect . . . these communities.”
There were other speakers as well. Matt Walker, representing the Surfrider Foundation, discussed the current political atmosphere, pointing to a number of remarks by NC Governor Pat McCory. “He said day one, ‘I’m going to drill offshore,’” Walker reported.
Much of Walker’s discussion focussed on the Outer Banks economy and the potential benefits of drilling for oil. “The tourism numbers are through the roof,” he said. Noting that the Outer Banks tourism economy would undoubtedly exceed $1 billion in 2015, he showed that under no circumstances would oil drilling bring that type of revenue to the Outer Banks.
Considerable concern was expressed about seismic mapping, a method for examining the seabed and deep into the substrata to search for fuel resources. The sound emitted from the airguns used to create the sound waves is believed to adversely effect marine life. Coincidental evidence exists showing damage to the hearing of whales and dolphin, as well as a theoretical impact on fish and turtles.
BOEM has issued mitigation guidelines and there is general agreement that new technologies have made seismic mapping less intrusive. However, all modeling continues to show damage to marine life.
The BOEM scoping meeting on March 16 is part of a process of public education and participation. In addition to public meetings, the public can comment online on the BOEM comment page.