Residents tell state again: ‘No drilling off our coast!’

By on August 11, 2017

A full house was on hand for the hearing. (Russ Lay)

The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality its third and final public hearing to Manteo Thursday on a proposed federal oil and gas leasing program along the Atlantic coast.

And the crowd of 124 people, including 34 who spoke publicly, delivered a strong message to the hearing’s panel members — drilling and seismic testing off the North Carolina coast is not wanted.

The meeting was held at the Dare County government complex  in the Board of Commissioners meeting room.

Not a single speaker offered comments in favor of offshore drilling.

While the crowds at this meeting was much smaller than the 2015 assemblage at the federal hearing in Kill Devil Hills, the composition of those opposed to drilling was exactly the same as two years ago — a united front of business owners, commercial and recreational fishermen, out-of-town property owners, elected officials, private citizens, Republicans, Democrats, independents and a handful of environmental activists.

Several themes were repeated by many of the speakers in addition to their opposition to the very concept of offshore drilling and the risks to the local economy versus what appears to many to be negligible economic benefits.

About a dozen speakers expressed dissatisfaction with the perceived pro-drilling stance of the state legislature, which is heavily dominated by Republicans.

Others expressed concerns about the federal role in the final decision-making and whether Washington will listen to the strong opposition to offshore drilling up and down the Atlantic seaboard.

Sue Kelly, a Kill Devil Hills resident noted, “Now the question becomes, what’s going to happen? Weren’t we here just a while ago saying the same thing? Didn’t I throw away my beat up sign that said “No Offshore Drilling” because I thought we had won … Do we, in fact, have a representative democracy? Are we going to get what the citizens have said very clearly they do not want? Who’s going to win? Will the folks who stand to make a lot of money win, or will we win?”

Jan DeBlieu, a Manteo environmental writer and former Coastal Federation lobbyist, noted that the continental shelf off of Cape Hatteras was “ground zero” for the oil companies, a reference that this area off of North Carolina’s coast is considered by geologists to have the greatest chance of yielding natural gas.

Mike Lopazanski, Jennifer Mundt, Daniel Govani, Braxton Davis (hearing officer) and Tancred Miller. (Russ Lay)

DeBlieu also deflected arguments from the oil industry that because natural gas is their target, oil spills are not a risk factor.

“Oil is often in the same location as natural gas and even without oil, extracting gas is a very dirty business,” she said.

Lee Nettles, managing director of the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau recited numbers that he said demonstrated that the risks to the local tourism economy far outweighed any potential benefits.

Nags Head Commissioner Susie Walters cited the $1 billion contribution tourism makes to the local economy and sakd one-third of Dare County’s residents were directly employed in a “tourism-related job” and the basis for that economy was our “unspoiled environment.”

Fellow Nags Head Commissioner John Ratzenberger also drew upon the numbers generated by tourism versus the lack of locally recognized revenue from oil drilling, the risks if something goes wrong and the small chance of any drilling yielding natural gas as violations of “common sense.”

Terry Gray addressed the impact on fishing. (Russ Lay)

Terry Gray, a candidate for commissioner in Kill Devil Hills this November, told the panel of his families involvement in commercial fishing and his fears that drilling and seismic testing would pose a grave risk to the fishing industry and its traditional place in the local economy.

Kill Devil Hills Mayor Sheila Davies may have uttered one of the most significant arguments against drilling when she said: “ We don’t have a fallback industry. Tourism is our industry. It is our livelihood.”

One other theme mentioned by several speakers was their inability to contact or hear back from federal and state elected representatives.

None of the area’s representatives, which include U.S. Walter Jones, state Sen. Bill Cook and state Rep. Beverly Boswell were in attendance, nor were any of their staff members.

Prior meetings were held in Wilmington and Morehead City earlier in August.

The purpose of the meetings was for the state to gather comments from the public, which in turn will influence a report the state will send to the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. That report will go out under the signature of Gov. Roy Cooper.

BOEM is supposed to take the comments from North Carolina and other states that would be affected by drilling along the Atlantic Ocean continental shelf into consideration as they develop a five-year plan on exploiting oil and gas deposits along the continental shelf.

For those unable to attend, comments can be submitted to Timothy Webster, 217 West Jones St., 1601 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, N.C., 27699-1601, or by email to:

All comments are due by Aug. 15, 2017.

To understand the BOEM federal five-year plan, readers can visit for more information.

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  • Really?

    So less than 30% of those in attendance spoke against offshore drilling so how was it determined this is a united front? Looks like 90 others in attendance could be in favor of, undecided or opposed to drilling because we didn’t hear their opinions. Nice the way media lumps everyone together as if they can speak for the other 90 people.

    Friday, Aug 11 @ 8:38 am
  • Derek

    The funny thing is the No Offshore Drilling Signs and bumper stickers are made from petroleum products…

    Friday, Aug 11 @ 9:02 am
  • gsurf123

    Standard NIMBY even though the whole economy on the Outer Banks requires oil products (gasoline) to exist and always. None of the objectors at this meeting have any problem with heating their homes, driving their cars or cooking out on the grill. They only want some other community to deal with messy details of the oil and gas industry. The irony of all this is a few years ago when gas was over $4 everyone was in a panic that it might affect tourism.

    Friday, Aug 11 @ 9:25 am
  • Can't see past thier nose !

    I wonder how many of them stopped at the gas station on the way home

    Friday, Aug 11 @ 10:12 am
  • Judy Lotas

    I was so proud of all my neighbors who spoke at yesterday’s hearing. They were articulate, polite and very, very passionate.
    Kept wondering if the people who came to listen had taken time to walk the beach and really think about what the consequences of oil drilling would be.
    I hope so.

    Friday, Aug 11 @ 11:42 am
  • Catfish 27954

    Mr big energy Bill Cook, and plastic bag women Bev Boswell couldn’t find two hours in their busy schedules to attend a meeting discussing what may be the most important issue ever for the Outer Banks.

    Since the Outer Banks is Raleigh’s cash cow, I would think that the legislature would be more sensitive to what we the people want.

    Friday, Aug 11 @ 12:25 pm
  • Thinking about the future

    Glad to hear the place was packed with people who have remained constant in being against offshore drilling off the coast here, even though neither their elected representatives nor their staff could make the time.

    Keep up the momentum and write to Timothy Webster as it has been suggested in the article!

    Friday, Aug 11 @ 1:20 pm

    How can the citizens of Dare county be so hypocritical and encouraging and all the tourist to hop in their car Drive down to our beautiful beaches , Put a big diesel engine in our boat . And then tell everyone no drilling off our coast there is something not fair about that message. We should leave by example of our word not tell everyone will take oil from your backyard but we are not willing to See if it’s in our backyard!!!

    Friday, Aug 11 @ 5:52 pm
  • Jim Rivera

    If the other 90 people were in favor of destroying Dare County by spilling oil, they had plenty of opportunity to say so. The applause for our speakers proved we were in total agreement that offshore drilling here is an absurd idea.

    Friday, Aug 11 @ 6:39 pm
  • Derek

    You don’t need the “stuff” just to fill up your vehicle. People don’t realize that petroleum is in so many of the items in their everyday life. Without it there would be very little left to the construction of your Prius, iPhone or surfboard. There wouldn’t be a roof on your house or wiring to power your Wifi. You also wouldn’t have plumbing to give you water or to take away your waste. You’d have no windows to keep the weather out, insulation in your walls or carpet to keep your feet warm. The elastic that holds up your underwear would be gone as would your condoms.

    Saturday, Aug 12 @ 7:19 am
  • DanO

    Let’s go back to the horse and buggy days. Go back to school and see what made american Great. Not medicade, disability checks or food stamps.

    Saturday, Aug 12 @ 9:44 am
  • Paul

    Really? Your misinterpretation of the facts reported is astounding.

    Evidently you missed the meeting. Anyone was free to speak. You didn’t have to sign up or be “pre-chosen” to express an opinion. I would have spoken, but my thoughts were expressed by other speakers. The fact was “Not a single speaker offered comments in favor of offshore drilling.”

    Then again, you are entitled to your own opinions and your own set of alternative facts.

    Saturday, Aug 12 @ 10:09 am
  • Rick

    Way to go Bev. Another missed opportunity to shine. Too bad you’re only serving one term.

    Saturday, Aug 12 @ 10:34 am
  • Drill in your yard

    Gosh I’m not in favor of drilling for natural gas. Look what seismic does to areas where it is used. It makes the area void of fish/mamals. I fish out there for a living. You catch nothing. You should look at studies of Seismic testing around reefs. Everything leaves the area. Now some of you need the facts. They aren’t lookin for oil it’s natural gas. And another who owns the companys thst are going to do this work and which politicians are getting payed by lobby groups to push this.

    Sunday, Aug 13 @ 8:02 am
  • Son of a Beach

    To those of you who have furnished comments supporting off shore drilling for oil in OBX, note that there is currently no need to do so. Increases in auto fuel economy has dramatically reduced the United States’ need for oil. Oversupply is why the price is currently so low. The US is now producing so much oil, w/o drilling off OBX, that it is exporting oil. It is not a question of going backwards, it is a question of intelligence.

    Sunday, Aug 13 @ 12:42 pm