To Drill Or Not To Drill; That Is The Question

Feb 28, 2018

The Trump Administration has a continental shelf oil exploration plan that covers most of the coastal U.S. – including North Carolina.  Federal officials only held one informational meeting was held in the state, and that was in Raleigh on Monday. Hundreds of North Carolinians made the trip, and the North Carolina Coastal Federation rented buses for folks from the coast.  The buses from Wilmington were sold-out.

“Thank you all for signing up and come and have your voices heard. Rally to Raleigh with us, to oppose offshore oil and gas exploration and drilling ……”

The buses heading up I-40 from Wilmington were packed, and people were talking oil and oceans as they headed to Raleigh. Buses also came from Morehead City, New Bern and Nags Head.

Dee Dee Nilser-Taylor, of Wilmington, says she jumped on board …

“…Because I’m worried about the effect of the seismic testing on ocean marine life. We all know what happens if there is an oil spill. We have seen that. We have seen the oiled birds. We have seen the destruction to the coastlines …”

Kevin Piacenca is with the Cape Fear Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation.

“I’m off to Raleigh to support our Governors’ effort to keep offshore drilling off of our coastline. And to submit along with citizens comments to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management about why I believe that offshore drilling and oil and gas exploration in general would be just a terrible idea for our state.”

In Raleigh on Monday, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, part of Department of the Interior, held an open house. Staff was on hand to discuss oil and gas exploration off the coast of the Carolinas -- answering questions about how much fuel may lie beneath the floor of the Atlantic Ocean, how it would be extracted, how long it would take.

Renee Orr heads the Office of Strategic Resources for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, commonly referred to as BOEM.

“There is a significant resource potential, offshore oil and gas, off of the Carolinas, off the Atlantic Coast as a whole but the Carolinas in particular. While we don’t know exactly what is there and wouldn’t know unless and until drilling actually happens, there is a significant resource potential.”

Joe Maloney is a BOEM geologist. He’s standing in front of a chart showing the potential amounts of oil and natural gas off the Atlantic coast .

“A lot of the data we have, was shot between, um, should we hold?”

“We are here today, to make the point, that this process, of having an open house, instead of a hearing, to railroad stuff like this through, rather than have a democratic process, by which all the people in this room, can express their opinion…”

As Maloney is speaking, two people opposed to drilling climb on to chairs in the ballroom BOEM is using for presentations, holding a banner.

“We are here to say this process does not work……”  

After a couple of minutes, the protestors moved on.

Again, Joe Maloney.

“Drilling does give you the best idea of if there is a (oil) field or not. If you drill and don’t hit, you know there is not oil and gas there. If you drill and you hit something, then you know how much oil and gas is there in the area you’re looking at. The combination of drilling and seismic give you the best idea of what is out there.”

What is out there could be 2.5 billion barrels of oil and 25 trillion cubic feet of gas. What is also out there are fish, mammals, and a lot of livelihoods.

“My name is Mark Hooper. I live in Smyrna, North Carolina, and I’ve been a commercial fisherman since 1974.”

“I grow clams, I shed soft-shell crabs, we put a lot of care into these animals. If oil is coming my way these things can’t move. They are there and they can’t hold their breath. It’ll be devastating for them and for me, I feel for these things. I’ve worked hard to really take good care of them, and I’m trying to produce a good quality seafood product, that I can share with the citizens of North Carolina.” 

Hooper says the coast is special.

“When you walk on that beach with your kids, you go swimming in that cool water and you’ve made that trip to the beach, and you hear those waves lapping against the shore it touches your soul. And at some point we have to draw a line and say this is it, this is sacred.”

“For President Trump this is energy dominance. He wants to take it, and sell it, and crush other economies, produce more than anybody. This is our sacred ground and we say no.”

On one side of the hotel, BOEM officials explain oil and gas drilling and exploration. In a ballroom on the other side are environmental groups and stakeholders.  

“Thank you all for being here and thanks to all the folks who took the buses from the coast! Give yourself a round of applause…”

North Carolina Secretary of Environmental Quality Michael Regan spoke.

“Our coastal tourism industry contributes more than 30,000 jobs and a $3 billion economy. We are at risk of losing these jobs and hurting our state’s economy if the Trump administration is successful in fast-tracking this process without everybody’s input.”

“So your voice matters no matter what your politics are. I was at the coast last week to listen to you, I’m going back to the coast next week to listen to you, and I will keep visiting and listening until we achieve our goal…”

Dare County Commissioner Bob Woodard – a Republican – represents the Outer Banks. He is strongly opposed to drilling.

“Let me say it for the record: The BOEM meeting here today should not be in Raleigh, North Carolina. It should be in multiple locations on our coast where we, you people here today, where you live can make comment to BOEM.”

“We want the real public hearing on the coast, where our fisherman, where our surfers, where our beachgoers, where our charter boat captains, and businesses can speak on the record and have their remarks documented.”

The decision rests with the Department of the Interior and its Secretary, Ryan Zinke. It was last year that the Trump administration decided to re-open the Mid-Atlantic and other coastal areas to leasing. Most state governors are not in favor of the plan.

Should Zinke take the research provided by BOEM, and approve the plan for drilling off the Carolinas, there would be another round of public comment.

Residents who oppose that plan say they hope that if that happens, meetings will be held on the coast and not in Raleigh.