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Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce statement on release of permits for seismic testing, blasting and exploration

Submitted by the Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce

The Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce represents approximately 950 businesses and organizations along the beautiful North Carolina coast from Corolla in Currituck County, from Duck through Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills, Nags Head, Hatteras Island and all of Dare County, to Ocracoke Island in Hyde County.  As the largest regional business organization representing the area we ask you to reconsider the release of permits that allow for off-shore seismic testing and exploration along our coastline.

While we as an organization recognize and support the need for energy independence and alternatives, exploration along our coast would be catastrophic for an area that depends on its natural beauty and environment for not only tourism related industries but for our recreational and commercial fishing fleet, our boat builders and our entrepreneurs.

On November 30, 2018, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) released Incidental Harassment Authorizations (IHAs) permitting five private companies to harm marine mammals with seismic airgun blasting. Seismic airguns, used to probe the ocean floor in search of oil and gas deposits, produce blasts that are among the loudest manmade sounds in the ocean.

Under the permits released, marine mammals along the Atlantic coast — from Cape May, New Jersey to the Outer Banks of NC to Cape Canaveral, Florida — will be exposed to dangerous and disruptive blasts. Impacts to wildlife are not just potential side effects of seismic blasting, they are anticipated outcomes.

The Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce is opposed to exploration, and seismic testing/blasting off the coast of North Carolina as well as all along the entire Atlantic seaboard.

Research suggests that job numbers and revenues expected from off-shore exploration and drilling have been overstated and will fall far short of the impact and revenue generated by our already thriving tourism-based economy. Specifically, the Outer Banks would not realize any benefit from any offshore drilling or testing activities. There would be no job creation or industry benefit as we do not have ports or infrastructure to support this type of industry. The Outer Banks would be shouldering all the risk with NO reward.

The 20 counties that comprise North Carolina’s coastal region generate more personal and commercial income, public revenues and employment opportunities than the petroleum and natural gas industry.

Specifically:

  • In 2017 a record $23.9 billion in domestic visitor/tourism spending was realized in North Carolina.
  • Out of the 100 counties in the State of North Carolina, Dare County was #4 in travel expenditures, generating over $1.13 billion and over 13,000 jobs.
  • Direct tourism employment in North Carolina is approximately 226,000+ persons, with a direct tourism payroll of $6.0 billion. Dare, Currituck and Hyde Counties combine for more than $271 million in tourism payroll.

Visitors come from all over the world to enjoy the natural beauty of our clean beaches, marshes, sounds and tributaries. Many of these natural areas provide sanctuary and nesting/breeding grounds for diverse groups of migratory birds, turtles, whales, fish and other forms of wildlife. Along with recreational enjoyment, our coastal waters and natural habitats provide the world with some of the best wild-caught seafood, renowned for its freshness and exceptional quality.

The inherent risks to our region from off-shore oil and natural gas exploration and drilling have the potential to irrevocably harm our natural environment, our economic well-being, and our overall quality of life. Offshore of the Outer Banks are two unique features; the continental shelf and the colliding of two currents, the Labrador current and the Gulf Stream. An oil spill would not only impact the Outer Banks but the two currents could take oil both north and south along the Atlantic coastline with catastrophic results.

The Outer Banks business community survives and thrives on a clean and beautiful coast to support our multi-million-dollar tourism, recreation and fishing industries. The Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce and its 950 members, Board of Directors and volunteers urge you to reconsider the release of these permits. Release of these permits puts us one step closer to oil-covered beaches and economic disaster.

FOR MORE COLUMNS AND LETTERS TO THE EDITOR, CHECK OUT OUR OPINION PAGE.

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