Next Round in the Drilling Fight
By NEEL KELLER
The Outer Banks Sentinel
numerous requests for additional hearings and an extension of the
deadline, the 60-day comment period on the Trump Administration's
proposal for expanded offshore drilling came and went, as expected, at
midnight on March 9.
But local officials and advocates say the effort to exempt North
Carolina, and other states, from the proposed drilling plan will
“Where we go from here is we continue to reach out to our federal
legislators via emails and letters and tell them we think there ought
to be an exemption from this plan for the entire Atlantic coast, not
just one or two states,” said Dare County Commissioners Chair Bob
Woodard. “We are all in a position to be put in harm's way.”
Woodard was part of a contingent of local officials who met with U.S.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke at the governor's mansion in Raleigh on
Feb. 3. He also spoke at an anti-drilling rally in the Hilton Midtown
Hotel in Raleigh at the same time the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management
(BOEM) open house meeting was being held on Feb. 26. That open house
was the only such BOEM meeting held in the state of North Carolina.
Last week, another delegation of Dare County leaders — Woodard, County
Manager Bobby Outten and Nags Head Mayor Ben Cahoon — traveled to
Washington, D.C. to meet with congressional and BOEM officials to
continue to apply pressure.
The group met on March 7 with legislative aides for N.C.
Representatives David Rouzer and Ted Budd and Senator Richard Burr,
along with meeting personally with Representative Walter Jones. The
next day, they were part of a larger meeting of about a dozen
participants with BOEM leaders, scientists and staffers, including BOEM
Acting Director Dr. Walter Cruickshank.
Cahoon said the meeting, which featured a diverse group of
participants, “was really pretty enlightening and you could tell they
felt very strongly about this. And Acting Director Cruickshank
acknowledged, 'We can hear the passion in what you're saying and we
don't dismiss that.' So that tells me that making that trip had real
Along with meeting BOEM leaders, the group had the opportunity to
participate in a panel briefing in the Capitol Building, a video of
which can be found on Ben Cahoon's Facebook page.
While many of Dare County’s and its towns’ political leaders have come
out strongly against drilling for energy off the coast of North
Carolina, there are differing views, particularly within the local
In one example, State Representative Beverly Boswell issued a March 9
release that reiterated her support for the Trump Administration’s
offshore energy plan and criticized her Republican primary opponent,
Currituck County Commissioner Chair Bobby Hanig, who she said “sounds
like Bernie Sanders” with his “emotional” opposition to drilling in the
Last week, the Currituck County Board of Commissioners voted to oppose
offshore drilling and seismic testing, a controversial method of
locating undersea energy deposits that is a precursor to drilling.
Next on the agenda as BOEM works its way toward a final approval of oil
and gas leases is the development of a Proposed Program, expected to be
published in late 2018, along with a Draft Programmatic Environmental
Impact Statement (PEIS), which will examine the potential environmental
impacts of the proposed program's options and alternatives. This will
be followed by another 90-day comment period.
OBX Surfrider Foundation's Matt Walker, noting how opponents of
drilling have been "saved" in the past by oil disasters, said the
strategy now is to fight the plan at every step of its development
through submitting effective comments that are personal and offer a
"human face" behind the numbers.
Agreeing, Cahoon said there is a growing interest among many
legislators in finding a way to force BOEM to have coastal meetings in
the next round of public comment.
"This is the closing of this round," he emphasized, "but there will be
more opportunity for comment. And in communicating with your delegation
— senators and congressmen — writing letters, sending emails and
calling their offices, it's effective to tell your story and talk
specifically about how a spill could affect your life."
While citing the county’s support for “responsible development of our
nation's energy supply,” Woodard added that, “We cannot ignore the
potential risk of offshore drilling and exploration, which would
needlessly put our environment and our entire way of life at risk. Our
community cannot become the next Prince William Sound or Deepwater