Letter to the Editor: Offshore drilling risks go beyond threat to natural surroundings

Published 6:09 am Thursday, September 26, 2019

To the Editor:

The many challenges facing us on all fronts, locally and nationally, make it easy to let our guard down and lose sight of critical issues that require our ongoing vigilance.

We must not forget that offshore drilling leases and plans for seismic testing are still a very real threat to our North Carolina coast. Although plans are currently on hold, the current administration has yet to cancel its plans to drill in the Atlantic Ocean, and North Carolina’s waters are still up for grabs for future oil and gas development.

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Bringing offshore drilling to the East Coast is misguided on all fronts. The move would forever change our coastal way of life. For people like me, who rely on the coast to make a living, the reality is clear. Offshore drilling is a threat that could put us out of business.

As a Realtor for more than 30 years, I have spent my career welcoming visitors to our area, providing service and hospitality in residential vacation rentals and sales. Whether for a week or two or for a lifetime, our visitors are drawn to the natural beauty of our coastlines, our open waters and our abundant natural resources. Even when they return home, vacationers remain connected to this area, returning over the years to explore our towns, enjoy the beach, absorb our rich history, catch fresh seafood and create family traditions and lasting memories. My company and so many others rely on this draw.

Dirty offshore drilling could make all of this all disappear. We would see big infrastructure changes in our state – multiple test wells, big rigs, a network of pipelines to transport product onshore and the constant worry about the inevitable leaks or spills.

The risks go beyond threatening pristine coastlines and marine life. Seismic testing and drilling threaten our economy – the jobs and commerce that contribute to our $1.9 billion tourism industry. Dare County’s Chamber of Commerce, Dare County Commissioners and local town councils have taken a firm, unified stance against exploration and drilling along the N.C. coast. Our National Seashore, current residents and future generations would suffer the consequences of offshore drilling and derive no benefit whatsoever. This is purely and simply bad for business. We are resilient to natural disasters and have proven that with strong community support we can overcome many obstacles. We do not need to risk manmade disasters.

The entire state’s ocean-dependent economy will suffer if the oil industry took over our coast. Such a takeover would threaten the robust tourism, fishing and recreation industries that we’ve built over generations. Today, these industries support nearly 57,000 jobs and generate roughly $2.5 billion in GDP for North Carolina. Healthy ocean ecosystems and clean beaches keep small businesses running and keep the bills paid for families throughout our coastal communities.

I can’t imagine how these families – all of us – would fare if an oil spill struck our coast. After BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil explosion in the Gulf of Mexico, regional tourism dropped, buyers stopped trusting Gulf seafood, and property values along the coast declined. A similar scenario here would devastate businesses on the Outer Banks. The ongoing success of my company and most others is contingent on maintaining healthy coastal resources – something entirely at odds with offshore drilling.

Our homes, our beaches and our businesses rely on the vitality of coastal North Carolina. We could lose it all if oil and gas activities proceed here.

We need our elected officials in North Carolina to maintain the united front against offshore drilling and exploration in the Atlantic Ocean. We’re counting on our elected leaders in Washington to protect our livelihoods and our coast. We must continue to strongly and loudly oppose these threats on local, state and national levels.

Let your voice be heard. Don’t let the current silence about this issue lull us into a false sense of security. The threat remains all too real.

Monica Thibodeau

Carolina Designs Realty