Dare County Commissioners Oppose Drilling
By a unanimous vote the Dare County Commissioners passed a resolution opposing offshore drilling for oil and gas off the North Carolina coast.
If there was a surprise in the vote, it was the strength of the statements from the commissioners opposing the exploiting of gas or oil in any form.
Discussion about the resolution began with a presentation from Rudi Rudolph, Carteret County Shoreline Protection Manager, noting where the process currently is in the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) system. Rudolph covered information showing there are currently no plans for royalty or lease agreements that would pay anything to local governments if leases are approved—a point rarely examined about offshore oil and gas leasing.
His presentation also included information about where the process is now—he felt seismic surveying will probably be permitted for this summer—and what to expect in the future. Of particular concern to coastal residents, according to Rudolph, the 50 mile buffer that currently exists off the eastern seaboard for oil and gas leases is an arbitrary number that can be legislatively or even administratively changed to a line closer to the shore.
Commissioner Jack Shea spoke first, setting the tone for the rest of the comments. “To me it looks like there’s a risk/benefit for this. They get the benefits and we get the risks. . . I don’t see any advantage for North Carolina,” he said.
Vice Chair Wally Overman noted that a proposed $250 million emergency fund that would be part of the oil/gas leases is not as much as it may appear. “The first $250 million would go into this emergency fund,” he said. “$250 million is a lot of money but it’s about a fourth of our (annual) $1 billion tourist industry. Suddenly $250 million doesn’t seem like a lot of money.”
Warren Judge followed with comments about what he sees happening moving forward. “I absolutely support this resolution and support this effort, but we have to get more proactive on this,” he said. “These guys are playing this game without us at the table. They don’t need to invite us; they aren’t inviting us.”
“This is a quality of life issue. This is a safety issue,” he added.
The final version of the resolution has not yet been posted, but as read by County Manager, Bobby Outten it begins:
“Whereas the Dare County Board of Commissioners, have had a longstanding objection to drilling for offshore gas or oil drilling including exploratory drilling . . . the Dare County Board of Commissioners have consistently expressed a steadfast unwavering opposition to to offshore drilling.”
The resolution goes on to point out that the potential damage to the economy would be devastating if an oil spill occurred and asks neighboring towns, counties and states to take a similar stand. The resolution ends with: “Now be it therefore resolved that the Dare County Board of Commissioners renews it’s staunch opposition of offshore drilling and urges North Carolina, our neighboring states and all federal agencies would take no action that would put our shorelines at risk . . .”
The unanimous vote came at 12:15 p.m.