Opponents applaud offshore drilling decision
By CATHERINE KOZAK AND MARK HIBBS
Coastal Review Online
of drilling off the North Carolina coast are celebrating today, after
federal officials said yesterday that Atlantic offshore waters are no
longer being considered in the five-year plan for oil and natural gas
is an incredible day for the oceans,” said Randy Sturgill, senior
campaign organizer for the southeast with the environmental group
Oceana, a leader in the opposition movement.
Pat McCrory, maybe the state’s biggest offshore drilling cheerleader,
charged that President Obama was bowing to left-wing activists by
removing the Atlantic from the proposed leasing plan, while oil
industry executives said he was acting against the wishes of voters and
of the Interior Sally Jewell and Abigail Ross Hopper, director of the
federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, or BOEM, announced the
decision. Speaking to reporters in a conference call, Jewell and Hopper
said factors considered in the decision included potential conflicts
with other ocean uses, including the U.S. Defense Department and
commercial interests, market dynamics, limited infrastructure and
opposition from many coastal communities.
the Atlantic, we heard from many corners that now is not the time to
offer oil and gas leasing off the Atlantic coast,” Jewell said. “This
includes many local communities whose livelihoods depend on fishing,
tourism and shipping activities. When you factor in conflicts with
commercial and national defense activities, market conditions and
opposition from local communities, it simply doesn’t make sense to move
forward with the Atlantic lease sales in the near future. As a result,
this one potential lease sale in the mid- and south-Atlantic that was
evaluated in the draft proposed program has been removed.”
Jewell said comments from residents of coastal communities were “very significant” factors in the decision.
More than 110 East Coast municipalities have formally opposed to Atlantic offshore drilling, according to Oceana.
LEADING THE OPPOSITION
N.C. Coastal Federation was also part of the opposition and organized a
public forum on the potential effects of drilling and seismic
exploration held in July 2015. Ladd Bayliss, a coastal advocate
with the federation, applauded the decision.
made it very clear that this bold move to remove Atlantic waters from
their drilling plan was a result of meaningful and diverse public
opposition,” Bayliss said. “It’s pretty empowering to participate in
the public process and actually see the results of such a composite
effort in a tangible time frame. Meetings, letters, phone calls,
emails, resolutions – they really do make a difference. Like my Dad
said about Mobil’s proposal to drill off the Outer Banks in the late
’80s, ‘When we are all blessed with such a resource; one that is long
term, it seems unwise to pursue its exploitation for a short-term
Other environmental groups expressed similar sentiments.
Walker, co-chairman of the Outer Banks chapter of the Surfrider
Foundation, said that the overwhelming opposition to Atlantic drilling
was a great illustration of coastal residents and officials coming
together “to protect their own” – their livelihoods, their environment
and their quality of life.
Dare County, he said, was one of the first local governments in the state to oppose the lease sale.
is a multi-billion-dollar industry in North Carolina, and Dare is one
of the top destinations in the state for tourists because of its clean,
is a victory for the people of the Outer Banks,” Bob Woodard, chairman
of the Dare County Board of Commissioners Chairman, said in a prepared
statement. “I am proud that our community took a strong and
united stand against offshore drilling.”
said the notoriously dirty business of oil and gas production never
made any sense off the Atlantic coast. But with North Carolina’s long
coastline, it would be even more vulnerable to crushing environmental
and fiscal damages from a spill.
was always a false premise that this was a good idea,” he said. “This
decision was going to be as bad for Raleigh as it would be for Kill
Devil Hills. I hope people who live inland are also breathing a
sigh of relief, because they stand as much to lose.”
said that drilling opponents should now focus their energy on getting
the moratorium that was lifted in 2008 put back in place to ensure the
battle won’t have to be renewed in five years when Atlantic leases
could be offered again.
said that opponents couldn’t match the oil lobby funding, so they
gathered supporters by “burning up” the Internet and Facebook.
proof that good ol’ grassroots organizing makes a difference,” Sturgill
said. “We took that, built upon that. We never really changed our
opposition from residents and community leaders – thousands of letters,
petitions, phone calls, public comments – worked its way up the
bureaucratic ladder all the way President Obama’s office, Sturgill
said. It was a bipartisan effort, with 110 municipalities on the
East Coast passing resolutions opposed to drilling. Only two counties
in North Carolina – Carteret and New Hanover – passed measures in
made anti-drilling lawn signs available for residents to post in their
yards, and both Oceana and Surfrider paid for banner planes with
anti-drilling messages to fly over areas holding big outdoor events.
this particular point, it’s a big thank you for all of the people who
had the courage to stand up,” Sturgill said. “We’re all neighbors. We
all share the same ocean.”
PROCESS 'WORKED AS INTENDED'
Defense Department submitted information during the process
that the entire proposed Atlantic lease sale area was
“conflicted,” Hopper said. She said the scope of military activity in
the area had grown since the time of the last evaluation in 2010.
“The way in which it changed is that more of the area actually is conflicted now,” Hopper said.
said conflicts with NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia were
also a material factor in the decision, which she said could only be
undone if Congress in a future administration reworks the five-year
program to add the Atlantic back in. The steps toward yesterday’s
decision worked as intended, with “robust” public input and many
stakeholders, she said.
have certainly heard from coastal communities, generally about their
opposition,” Jewell said. “This is not a big reversal. Basically, this
is exactly how the process is intended to work.”
proposed list of leasing areas could narrow further or stay same but it
cannot grow, Jewell said. The new proposed five-year lease plan
announced yesterday evaluates 13 potential lease sales in six
planning areas – 10 potential sales in the Gulf of Mexico and three
potential sales off the coast of Alaska.
said the Interior Department’s request for the military assessment was
recently fulfilled and taken into account, along with other input.
was tremendous interest in the Atlantic and generally it was expressing
concern, from every source,” Jewell said. “It’s not like we were just
waiting for the Department of Defense to weigh in. This has been
something that has had multiple public meetings over a prolonged period
of time, over a year, and an assessment of all those comments led to
Jewell said the market conditions cited were based on broader aspects of the industry over a five-year time span.
“Current oil prices were not a material factor in the decision that we made today,” she said.
Pat McCrory has touted the jobs drilling would bring and the revenue it
would generate for the state. Obama, he charged, was bowing to
the wishes of his leftist supporters.
Obama’s total reversal can only be described as a special political
favor to far-left activists that have no problem importing energy
resources from countries hostile to the United States,” McCrory said in
a prepared statement. “What’s more troubling is the President is
closing the door before he even knows what resources can be harnessed
in an environmentally sound way. Unfortunately, the Obama
administration’s deal could ultimately cost North Carolina thousands of
new jobs and billions in needed revenue for schools, infrastructure,
dredging and beach re-nourishment.”
Oil industry representatives, said keeping the Atlantic closed to oil exploration amounts to a missed opportunity.
a statement from the American Petroleum Institute, an oil industry
trade group, president and CEO Jack Gerard said that the administration
is going against the will of voters and state political leaders.
According to a Feb. 2016 Harris Poll conducted for the API, 67 percent
of registered voters polled in North Carolina support increased
production of domestic oil and gas, and 22 percent are opposed. A poll
of residents of oceanfront counties done for Coastal Review Online in
July found that 46 percent opposed offshore drilling, while 42 percent
decision appeases extremists who seek to stop oil and natural gas
production which would increase the cost of energy for American
consumers and close the door for years to creating new jobs, new
investments and boosting energy security,” Gerard said. “This
decision stunts the safe and responsible path to securing the domestic
energy supplies future generations of Americans will need.”
said a single lease sale would have had only negligible effects on the
nation’s oil production. “In terms of ensuring that there is energy
security even without this lease sale, we have done that.” she said.
the program is finalized and before any lease sales occur, the Interior
Department will consider another round of public input on the proposal
and its accompanying draft environmental study.