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Offshore Energy Debate Renews

By Ryan Haar, posted Jun 16, 2017
The waters off North Carolina are back into play for potential offshore oil and natural gas drilling.

For some local opponents of offshore drilling, the issue’s return was not welcome news.

“This time, however, people are angry. They knew their president and Congressmen were listening and supporting them. Now, to have all those efforts destroyed is causing many of us to become discouraged with government, but we can’t do that.

We have to believe our voices mean something. We can’t give up,” Kure Beach Mayor Emilie Swearingen said.
 

Last Time Around

Here are local governments that weighed in when offshore exploration and drilling last came up:

Holly Ridge, opposed to offshore natural gas/oil exploration and offshore drilling (Aug. 11, 2015)

SURF CITY, opposed exploration and drilling (Aug. 4, 2015)

WILMINGTON, opposed seismic testing and drilling (July 21, 2015)

BRUNSWICK COUNTY, support of seismic surveys (July 6, 2015) Commissioners reconsidered on Aug. 17 whether to take a more neutral stance, but since that move tied 2-2, the earlier resolution of support remained in place

SUNSET BEACH, opposed seismic (June 30, 2014)

ST. JAMES, concerned over seismic (May 6, 2014)

OAK ISLAND, concerned over seismic (Apr. 29, 2014)

TOPSAIL BEACH, opposed seismic (Apr. 23, 2014)

CASWELL BEACH, concerned over seismic (March 31, 2014)

CAROLINA BEACH, opposed seismic (Feb. 28, 2014)

WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH, opposed oil or gas drilling (Sept. 9, 2010)
 
The potential of natural gas and oil deposits off the coast of the Eastern Seaboard motivated the Trump administration to make the area available for seismic testing under the “America-First Offshore Energy Strategy” executive order signed in April.

The East Coast was last brought into the question of oil exploration under the Obama administration. In response to that proposal, 32 North Carolina local governments passed resolutions opposing offshore drilling and exploration.

But last year the Obama administration removed miles of water off the Eastern Coast from potential oil exploration and exploitation.

This time around, all previous resolutions approved by local and state governments will automatically be forwarded to the National Marine Fisheries Service so it’s not necessary for local governments to redo resolutions, Swearingen said.

Not all are opposed to the new plan.

The N.C. Petroleum Council endorsed Trump’s plan, saying that the continental shelf off the North Carolina coast is estimated to hold 2.4 billion barrels of oil and 24.6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

“Our state is uniquely positioned to add jobs and bring in local revenue through energy development, which can safely coexist with our current tourism and fishing industries while providing much needed diversity for our local economies,” N.C. Petroleum Council Executive Director David McGowan said in a statement about the executive order.

State Rep. Deb Butler, D-New Hanover, said constituents she has heard from are opposed to any measure that moves North Carolina closer to offshore drilling. Butler said she is concerned about environmental impacts and the disruption or reduction of the tourism economy.

“In my opinion, the North Carolina coast is an asset and a resource that cannot be replaced, nor should it be jeopardized in any manner,” Butler said.

The reality of offshore drilling, however, will most likely not be realized for many years, said Steve Yost, president of North Carolina’s Southeast, a regional economic development partnership.

“Exploration and research alone would take at least several years,” Yost said. “After that, if it’s deemed economically feasible, it’d take considerable time for companies to ramp up and make the significant investment to actually do it.”

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