CoastLine: Science Panel Weighs in on Potential Impacts of Seismic Testing off NC Coast

Jun 5, 2015

This broadcast of CoastLine originally aired on April 22, 2015. 

It was just one week ago that Governor Pat McCrory testified in front of the House subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources about oil and gas exploration off the North Carolina coast. 

His message to Washington:  The 50-mile buffer zone that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has proposed for the mid-Atlantic region means that up to 40% of potential oil and gas resources off the North Carolina shore could be overlooked.  Shrink the buffer zone, says McCrory, bring seismic testing and offshore drilling closer to the coast, and accelerate the lease sale process. 

The other person from North Carolina who testified at that subcommittee hearing was Emilie Swearingen – a member of the Kure Beach Town Council.  Her message came in direct opposition to the Governor’s:  the economies of beach towns like Kure and Carolina Beaches run on tourism, commercial fishing, and small businesses related to those sectors.  Please don’t threaten that, says Swearingen, by bringing seismic testing or offshore drilling to our coast.

A month earlier, a group of 75 scientists sent a letter to President Obama urging his administration to reject an analysis by the Department of the Interior that concluded seismic testing would have a negligible impact on marine species and populations.  The letter asserts that premise – that seismic testing would not seriously harm marine life -- is not supported by the best available science. 

The scientists who put their signature on that letter come from all over the world.  Those from the U.S. include experts at Stanford, Cornell, and Duke Universities, the New England Aquarium, and The University of North Carolina at Wilmington. 

One of those scientists joined us by phone:

Dr. Douglas Nowacek is a Professor of Marine Science and Conservation at the Nicholas School of the Environment and the Edmund T. Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University.

Two scientists joined us for the discussion in-studio:

Dr. Larry Cahoon is a Professor of Biology and Marine Biology at UNCW.

Dr. Suzanne Dorsey is the Executive Director of the Bald Head Island Conservancy and a member of the Coastal Resources Commission.  Dorsey was appointed by Governor McCrory in 2013.