July 12, 2017
Battle for the Atlantic:
Offshore drilling foes gear up for another fight
BY NEEL KELLER
The Outer Banks Sentinel
reaction was swift and loud on the Outer Banks and along parts of the
Atlantic coast last week after the Department of the Interior’s
announcement that a 45-day public comment period had started for the
Trump Administration's new five-year offshore oil and gas leasing
advocates say they are gearing up to fight what one organizer called
"the battle for the Atlantic” — a war that appeared to have been won
federal announcement sets the stage for a multi-step plan to re-start
the process of offering offshore oil and gas drilling leases in areas
that include the Mid-Atlantic and South Atlantic. It follows President
Trump's Executive Order signed on April 28 paving the way for a new
leasing program for the period from 2019 to 2024.
order overturned a 2016 Obama Administration ban on such leases, a
decision that followed a series of major anti-drilling protests on the
Outer Banks in 2015.
are obviously disappointed that we have to go down this road again,"
Outer Banks Surfrider Foundation Co-Chair Ivy Ingram told the Sentinel,
"especially so shortly after just having been down it. This community
came together once to fight it and I know we can do it again."
this time we’re using social media to spread the word on the comment
period," she added. “I’m sure, as we see what lies ahead, we’ll be
planning meetings and rallies."
to the Obama Administration’s decision to halt offshore drilling,
Oceana Campaign Organizer Randy Sturgill said, "They heard the cries of
the people and made the appropriate decision to shut it down. Now that
the administration has hit the reset button, we're starting the battle
again to save the Atlantic."
continue to be in strong opposition to offshore drilling in the
Atlantic," Kill Devil Hills Mayor Sheila Davies told the Sentinel. "I
am committed to doing whatever I can to protect our waters, beaches and
precious natural resources."
the 45-day comment period closes on Aug. 17, then comes the development
of the Draft Proposed Program, followed by a 60-day comment period and
the development of a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement, a
Proposed Program, a 90-day comment period, a Final Programmatic
Environmental Impact Statement, a Final Proposed Program, a 60-day
Congressional Review Period and the announcement of the 2019-2024
of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) spokesperson Tracey Moriarty told the
Sentinel that any public meetings on the issue are still a way off and
will come after the creation of the Draft Proposed Program.
in 2015, those public meetings helped galvanize local anti-drilling
protestors. In March of that year, a crowd of about 300 jammed into the
Comfort Inn adjacent to the BOEM hearing at the Ramada Plaza to protest
offshore energy exploration. Less than a month later, the Dare Board of
Commissioners unanimously affirmed its opposition to drilling —
something it had done on three prior occasions.
in mid-May, an estimated 300 Outer Banks residents locked hands on the
beach at Nags Head to make a statement about their opposition to
offshore drilling. And, in late August, dozens of protestors gathered
in Manteo to demonstrate across from the building where then Governor
Pat McCrory, a supporter of offshore drilling, was holding a fundraiser.
Carolina Coastal Federation spokesman Mike Giles ticked off some
statistics to describe the breadth of opposition to drilling. “The
majority of governors along the Atlantic Coast, over 125
municipalities, 500,000 fishing families and over 41,000 businesses
have overwhelmingly voiced their opposition,” he said. “The past
administration listened to those concerns and now it is time for this
administration to do the same and protect our valuable natural assets."
Foundation Co-Chair Matt Walker asserted that the arguments are even
clearer now than they were the last time around, with the new
administration "not even offering revenue sharing" while asking coastal
communities to put "years of billion dollar tourism revenue" on the
that the process is a "marathon," Walker said, "The important thing for
people to know is the need to voice your concerns now and keep on
voicing your concerns." Promising much more action to come, he
acknowledged that, "We're just getting our head back in the game."
of Oceana, said he has already begun meeting with concerned residents
in Brunswick, Carteret and New Hanover Counties, assisting them with
organizing new groups to mobilize against offshore drilling. He also
has organizational meetings set for Greenville and multiple locations
on the Outer Banks, including Ocracoke Island.
situation now is different from before, when we had to start from
scratch,” he said. “This time there are so many left over from the
fight from the last five years. And they're ready to join in and be a
part of the battle for the Atlantic."
To submit comments via the Internet, go to www.regulations.gov.
Mailed comments should be sent to Ms. Kelly Hammerle, National Program
Manager, BOEM, 45600 Woodland Road, Mailstop VAM-LD Sterling, VA 20166.