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Dare Commissioners say no drilling off coast

On Monday, Feb. 5, Dare County Board of Commissioners Chairman Robert L. Woodard opened the meeting with strong words opposing the proposed federal plan for offshore oil and gas leasing.

On Jan. 4, 2018, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Interior Ryan Zinke released a draft proposed program which would open 90 percent of total Outer Continental Shelf acreage to leasing for future exploration for oil and natural gas and development.

All of the North Carolina coast is included in the draft leasing program.

In announcing the program, Zinke said “the important thing is we strike the right balance to protect our coasts and people while still powering America and achieving American Energy Dominance.”

On Saturday, Feb. 3, Woodard was invited by North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper to meet face-to-face with Zinke at the Governor’s Mansion.

Joining Woodard and the governor were Josh Stein, the state’s Attorney General, Michael Regan, Secretary of the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality, Susie Walters, Mayor Pro Tem of Nags Head, Renee Cahoon, Chairman of the Coastal Resources Commission and Commissioner for Nags Head, Trace Cooper, Mayor of Atlantic Beach, Rob Zapple, New Hanover County Commissioner, Dr. Stan Riggs, Marine Geologist at East Carolina University, Tom Kies, President of Carteret County Chamber of Commerce, Dave Timpy, Fisherman and former member of the Army Corps of Engineers, and staffers.

“This is about our economy. This is about devastation to our beaches,” said Woodard on Monday.

“It is not a partisan issue,” said the chairman as he reeled off political affiliations of Atlantic Coast state governors, four Republicans and three Democrats, opposing the draft plan.

“No amount of oil is worth a one-time spill,” stated Woodard. “Where we have drilled, we have spilled.”

The threat of such a spill endangers the state’s $3 billion coastal tourism economy. Dare County generates a third of that total. “This is about people’s livelihoods.”

Woodard said “we have all the risks and none of the reward.”

The draft plan identified 47 potential areas for leasing and envisions nine lease sales in the mid- and south-Atlantic areas. Those lease sales would occur in 2020, 2022 and 2024.

Woodard compared undiscovered, recoverable oil available on off-shore and on land, with estimates from the U.S. Geological Survey. His figures showed more undiscovered oil over land. Queried Woodard, “why drill offshore?”

At the end of his speech, Woodard presented a prepared resolution for the board’s consideration titled “A resolution expressing the Dare County Board of Commissioners’ Continued Opposition of Offshore Drilling and Seismic Testing.

The board approved the resolution unanimously. It is the fifth time the Dare County Board of Commissioners has expressed opposition to offshore drilling or testing. Previously, resolutions were dated April 6, 2015, Dec. 5, 2005, May 19, 2003 and Feb. 2, 1998.

At the Saturday meeting, Cooper said he asked the Secretary face-to-face to exempt North Carolina from the administration’s offshore drilling proposal.

Elected officials in Dare County and the governor have also asked the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to schedule a public hearing in Dare County so citizens’ viewpoints can be made publicly and recorded.

A press release from the governor’s office said Secretary Zinke was receptive to the concerns presented. Zinke also agreed to consider the request to extend the public comment period and add additional public hearings in coastal communities.

Zinke also met with General Assembly leaders on Saturday, reports Coastal Review Online.

Currently only an open house style meeting is scheduled for Feb. 26 in Raleigh. Some 14 groups are organizing a Rally to Raleigh. Buses have been chartered and will leave from Wilmington, Morehead City and Nags Head.

For Nags Head, departure from the Soundside Event Site is set for just after noon on Feb. 26 with an expected return around 10 p.m.

To register for the trip, go to nccoast.org/rallytoraleigh.

To make public comment electronically about the proposed plan, go to boem.gov/National-Program-Comment/#submitcomments.

To submit comments by mail, send to Ms. Kelly Hammerle, National OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Program Manager, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (VAM-LD), 45600 Woodland Road, Sterling, VA 20166-9216.