Offshore Drilling

Seismic Testing / Offshore Drilling

Previously reported – September 2015
Resolution 15-09 is in opposition to offshore exploration and drilling. Why? Because we have a tourism based economy, along with the local fishing industry and quality of life depends on the health and welfare of our natural resources. We believe that the inherent risks to our region from offshore exploration and drilling have the potential to irrevocably harm our natural environment, our economic well-being and our overall quality of life. Including us there are now 79 municipalities that have passed resolutions opposing offshore exploration and drilling.

Previously reported – August 2017
Offshore drilling along NC coast draws opposition from Governor Roy Cooper
North Carolina Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper says he’s opposed to drilling for natural gas and oil off the Atlantic coast, saying it’s not worth the risk of harming the state’s pristine beaches and tourism economy. The Trump administration is rewriting a five-year drilling plan that would open portions of the Atlantic now off-limits to drilling and has asked permission for companies to use seismic air guns to find oil and gas formations. Cooper says he’ll file the state’s opposition to the seismic testing ahead of Friday’s deadline for comment.
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As the debate over offshore drilling heats up, what’s at stake?
The past few months have seen a contentious debate resurface along the shores of the North Carolina coast, as the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) explores the concept of opening the Atlantic coast to offshore oil drilling and natural gas exploration.
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Previously reported – January 2018
Trump Moves to Open Nearly All Offshore Waters to Drilling
The Trump administration said Thursday it would allow new offshore oil and gas drilling in nearly all United States coastal waters, giving energy companies access to leases off California for the first time in decades and opening more than a billion acres in the Arctic and along the Eastern Seaboard. The proposal lifts a ban on such drilling imposed by President Barack Obama near the end of his term and would deal a serious blow to his environmental legacy. It would also signal that the Trump administration is not done unraveling environmental restrictions in an effort to promote energy production. While the plan puts the administration squarely on the side of the energy industry and against environmental groups, it also puts the White House at odds with a number of coastal states that oppose offshore drilling. Some of those states are led by Republicans, like Gov. Rick Scott of Florida, where the tourism industry was hit hard by the Deepwater Horizon rig disaster in 2010 that killed 11 people and spilled millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.
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‘Drill, baby drill!’ comes to oil safety regulator
The Trump administration wants to open virtually all federal waters to offshore drilling even as his administration pushes to relax regulations designed to prevent a repeat of the BP oil spill.
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Cooper to “pursue every option” against offshore drilling
North Carolina Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper says he’ll keep fighting efforts by President Donald Trump’s administration to expand oil and gas exploration off the Atlantic coast, saying such drilling “represents a critical threat” to the state’s coastal economy. Cooper responded Thursday to news of additional opportunities proposed by the federal government for offshore energy development starting in 2019. He said in a release his administration “will pursue every option” to prevent drilling near the state’s beaches, fishing waters and coastal communities. The governor last summer announced opposition to expanded coastal oil and gas exploration. Last month, a state regulatory agency asked companies interested in testing to provide more information that reflects potential marine life problems. State Republican legislative leaders generally back offshore exploration, as did Cooper’s predecessor, Republican Pat McCrory.
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NC governor, DEQ secretary oppose Trump’s plan to expand offshore drilling
The new five-year drilling plan also could open new areas of oil and gas exploration in areas off the East Coast from Georgia to Maine, where drilling has been blocked for decades. Many lawmakers in those states support offshore drilling, although the Democratic governors of North Carolina and Virginia oppose drilling off their state coasts. “Offshore drilling and the seismic testing that would precede it pose environmental and economic risks to North Carolina’s coastal communities that we cannot afford,” NC Department of Environmental Quality Secretary Michael Regan said in a statement Thursday. “Protection of our beaches, sounds and marine life is vital to ensuring a robust coastal economy.”

The proposal follows President Donald Trump’s executive order in April encouraging more drilling rights in federal waters, part of the administration’s strategy to help the U.S. achieve “energy dominance” in the global market. A coalition of more than 60 environmental groups denounced the plan, saying in a joint statement that it would impose “severe and unacceptable harm” to America’s oceans, coastal economies, public health and marine life. The proposal comes less than a week after the Trump administration proposed to rewrite or kill rules on offshore oil and gas drilling imposed after the deadly 2010 rig explosion and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The accident on BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig killed 11 workers and triggered the biggest offshore oil spill in U.S. history. The Trump administration called the rules an unnecessary burden on industry and said rolling them back will encourage more energy production. Environmentalists said Trump was raising the risk of more deadly oil spills. The Obama administration imposed tougher rules in response to the BP spill. The rules targeted blowout preventers; massive valve-like devices designed to prevent spills from wells on the ocean floor. The preventer used by BP failed. The rules require more frequent inspections of those and other devices and dictate that experts onshore monitor drilling of highly complex wells in real time.
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Oppose Offshore Oil
Federal government moves to open nearly all of the N.C. coast and U.S. waters to offshore drilling.

Yesterday the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management released the draft 2019-2024 National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program. This plan opens 25 of the 26 planning areas in the Atlantic Ocean, Arctic Ocean, Pacific Ocean and Gulf of Mexico to offshore drilling — including the North Carolina coast. Drilling leases will be allowed within just three miles of our oceanfront beaches under this plan. Gov. Roy Cooper already released a statement reiterating his opposition to offshore drilling because of the harm it could cause to North Carolina’s coastal environment and economy.

We now have another long fight to keep North Carolina off limits to offshore drilling. Public opposition to drilling protected our coast in 2016, and we need your help to protect it again.

Check nccoast.org/oil and dontdrillnc.org for talking points. Click here to read the draft plan.

Questions? Contact coastal advocates Mike Giles at mikeg@nccoast.org or Michael Flynn at michaelf@nccoast.org. You can also reach them at 252-393-8185.

Gov: NC wants exemption from offshore drilling
Citing local pushback and a burgeoning tourism economy, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke announced Tuesday that he would remove a state from the now-under-review Trump administration’s offshore drilling plan. That state was Florida, not North Carolina, where more than 30 municipalities have opposed either seismic testing or offshore drilling, and coastal tourism generates about $3 billion annually. Now, N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper and environmentalists are wondering if the Old North State will be afforded a similar chance to be removed from the plan, which opens up exploration off the coast of every state but — possibly — Florida between 2019 and 2024. “Just as you acknowledge in removing Florida, offshore drilling threatens tourism, which is a vital economic driver,” Cooper wrote in a letter to Zinke. “The same holds true for North Carolina.”
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Threat of oil, natural gas drilling off Brunswick County returns with Trump declaration
Following up on an order and promise made by President Donald Trump last April, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has announced plans to open nearly all the nation’s offshore waters for drilling for oil and natural gas. The move follows another recent announcement that the Trump administration is looking to scale-back some safety regulations enacted after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster that killed 11 workers and released 215-million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico, fouling beaches from Louisiana to Florida.

The draft Five-Year Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program would sell leases for drilling as soon as next year in nearly all U.S. waters in the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic oceans, with the exception of American Samoa. It is a dramatic reversal of the Obama administration’s ban on expanded drilling areas and faces opposition from governors from Delaware to Florida and more than 140 Atlantic coastal communities. Zinke said that responsible development of offshore energy resources would boost jobs and economic security while providing billions of dollars to fund conservation along U.S. coastlines. The secretary outlined 47 possible offshore leases from 2019 to 2024. Nineteen sales would be off Alaska, 12 in the Gulf of Mexico, nine in the Atlantic and seven in the Pacific, including six off California. “This is a draft program,” Zinke said in a conference call. “Nothing is final yet, and our department is continuing to engage the American people to get to our final product.”

Industry groups praised the plan, the most favorable to exploration and drilling in more than 30 years. Dozens of environmental organizations protested, and Gov. Roy Cooper has formally requested that North Carolina be excluded from the leasing plan. “Offshore drilling represents a critical threat to our coastal economy,” Cooper said in a prepared statement. “Protecting North Carolina families and businesses is my top priority, and we will pursue every option to prevent oil drilling near North Carolina’s beaches, coastal communities and fishing waters.” Last month, the Division of Coastal Management asked four companies to submit additional information about proposed seismic testing for offshore oil development because original proposals did not consider the latest scientific studies on harmful impacts to marine life, the governor stated.

The federal draft plan invites public comment. Cooper and the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality have responded for the record. “It’s clear that opening North Carolina’s coast to oil and gas exploration and drilling would bring unacceptable risks to our economy, our environment and our coastal communities—and for little potential gain,” Cooper stated. “As governor, I’m here to speak out and take action against it. I can sum it up in four words: not off our coast.” Randy Sturgill of Oak Island, an organizer for the non-profit environmental group Oceana, was more direct. “This insane plan from the Trump administration proves they are only listening to oil interests while threatening all North Carolina coastal communities with their dirty and dangerous business,” Sturgill said. “This is a radical offshore free-for-all, as the administration ignores the cries of coastal residents and elected officials that have for years made it clear they don’t want the oil industry setting up shop along our beautiful Brunswick beaches.” Sturgill called the issue “a battle for the Atlantic” that will set the stage for what residents leave for their grandchildren along the coast. “The Trump administration’s plan not only ignores the risky nature of dirty and dangerous drilling, but also the people and coastal businesses who would be most affected,” said Diane Hoskins of Oceana. “The administration’s proposal would put large multi-national corporations ahead of coastal residents and healthy ocean-dependent economies.”

Brunswick County commissioners, in the majority, have formally endorsed oil and gas exploration. They are in the minority, as more than 140 Atlantic coastal communities and groups representing 41,000 businesses have opposed drilling in the Atlantic. Southport, Oak Island, Bald Head Island, Caswell Beach, Holden Beach, Ocean Isle Beach, Sunset Beach and Belville have passed resolutions against drilling. “By opening these areas to drilling, the Trump administration will be acting counter to the best available science—and the will of coastal communities,” said Drew Ball of Environment NC. “We have seen an unprecedented outcry against drilling in recent years. “Local resistance matters,” Ball continued. “More than 140 East Coast communities, including more than 30 North Carolina coastal municipalities, and thousands of businesses, trade groups and tourism associations have passed resolutions opposing Atlantic drilling and seismic testing.” “Instead of threatening our waterways and marine wildlife, President Trump should pay attention to the thousands of citizens, fishermen, town councils and business owners along the Atlantic coast and the millions of Americans from Alaska to Maine who have already said ‘no’ to offshore drilling,” Ball said. “Today’s action is the wrong decision and we will do whatever it takes to block proposals to drill off our coasts.”
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NC officials, environmentalists concerned over offshore drilling plan
North Carolina’s inclusion on a draft five-year offshore drilling plan has state officials and environmental organizations concerned, while oil industry representatives are calling for the public comment and review process to be carried out.
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Brunswick revokes previous stance on offshore drilling
Narrow vote means the county does not support or oppose offshore drilling, at least for now.
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Previously reported – February 2018
Offshore drilling: coming to a beach near you?

  • Offshore drilling on the Atlantic Coast has been prohibited since the 1980s
  • The new plan would allow for nine new leases in the Atlantic
  • More than 1,200 local, state, and federal leaders have opposed opening the Atlantic to oil exploration

So, what does this mean for Coastal Carolina? According to Brunswick County Deputy County Manager Steve Stone, the proposed plan would allow for most of the waters off the N.C. coast would be open to exploration – these waters have been off-limits since the 1980s.
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Cooper: NC to sue if kept in offshore drilling plan
Governor threatens legal action if Trump administration pushes plan to open coast to oil exploration. “No way. Not off our coast,” Cooper said of oil exploration.
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Gov. Cooper talks NC opposition to offshore drilling with Trump official
Governor Cooper had a meeting with President Trump’s Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke Saturday to talk about North Carolina’s opposition to offshore drilling and seismic testing, according to a press release from the Governor’s office. Elected officials and stakeholders from coastal North Carolina also joined Cooper in the meeting. They stressed the threats that offshore drilling and seismic testing pose to North Carolina’s coastal economies and tourism industry. In the meeting, Gov. Cooper made a point that offshore drilling would put North Carolina’s $3 billion coastal economy, 22 barrier islands and millions of acres of estuaries at risk.

Cooper asked Zinke for a 60-day extension of the public comment period earlier this week. He also asked the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to hold additional public hearings on the North Carolina coast in Kill Devil Hills, Morehead City, and Wilmington. The only public feedback session scheduled to take place currently is set to be held in Raleigh as an “open house.”
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Previously reported – March 2018
Resolution against offshore drilling stalls in Brunswick
In a 4-1 vote, Brunswick County Commissioners voted to remove a resolution against offshore drilling from their meeting agenda Monday night.
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Previously reported – April 2018
Zinke sees low demand, strong opposition, for new offshore drilling
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke acknowledged Friday that President Trump’s plan to open large swaths of the East and West coasts to offshore oil and natural gas drilling faces significant headwinds. Speaking to an offshore wind conference in New Jersey, Zinke said drilling companies are not that interested in new areas offshore, while there’s “strong opposition” in most of the neighboring states. The acknowledgements could be a sign that Zinke will significantly narrow his plan, released in January, for offshore drilling. Under the plan, the entire Gulf of Mexico, Pacific and Atlantic coasts and areas around Alaska would be open to drilling.
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Previously reported – August 2018
North Carolina Gov. Cooper joins others in protest of federal fines for opposing offshore drilling
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper has joined four other Atlantic coast governors to oppose the Enhancing State Management of Federal Lands and Waters Act, a proposal that could cost the state millions if it bans offshore drilling for oil and gas. Last Thursday, Cooper and governors from Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Jersey and Virginia called on Congress to reject the act, which would impose a tax on states that want to exempt more than half of federal lands from oil and gas leases.

Initial calculations estimate North Carolina could have to pay more than $500 million to receive a drilling waiver. “North Carolina should not have to pay a ransom to protect our beaches from the dangers of offshore drilling,” Cooper said in a prepared statement. “Our coastal communities generate more than 30,000 jobs and the risk posed by offshore drilling simply isn’t worth it.”

In a reversal of previous policy, the Trump administration has opened most of the Atlantic coast for potential leases. Cooper previously expressed opposition to seismic air gun tests and drilling. In January, he formally requested that North Carolina be exempt from leasing, a status already granted to Florida. Dozens of beach communities have passed resolutions against offshore drilling. Brunswick County’s governing board is now officially neutral on the issue, after earlier passing a resolution in support of drilling.
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Previously reported – October 2018
County commissioners ignore pleas, won’t join opposition to offshore oil drilling
Activists who want to protect area beaches from offshore drilling took their pre-election message to the Brunswick County Board of Commissioners again. More than a dozen residents asked commissioners at their October 15 meeting to adopt a resolution opposing offshore drilling and seismic testing off the North Carolina coast. They have addressed commissioners each meeting since the board voted 4-1 in April to remove from the agenda a resolution offered by District 1 commissioner Randy Thompson. Thompson’s proposal would have positioned the county against offshore drilling, keeping it in line with the more than 140 Atlantic coastal communities and groups that have adopted resolutions. They include Southport, Oak Island, Bald Head Island, Caswell Beach, St. James and Holden Beach. “Elections are upon us,” Southport resident Michael Rice told commissioners. “Will we be governed by an unseen boss, or by representatives who listen to us and manage our county in our interests as we express them?” Since a resolution opposing offshore drilling hasn’t been introduced by the county, Rice presented one for commissioners to consider. It stated that commissioners “upon hearing the views of its citizens and municipalities in public forums, unequivocally opposes drilling for minerals in the waters off of our shores, and likewise opposes activities in such waters in furtherance of such drilling.” Commissioners did not respond and took no action.
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Previously reported – December 2018
Trump admin. approves seismic tests for Atlantic offshore oil drilling
The approval moves forward a policy that many affected states don’t want.
On Friday, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) approved a plan to make it legal for five companies to conduct seismic testing off the Atlantic coast, in an area stretching from Delaware to Florida. The seismic testing is an initial step toward leasing federal offshore waters to oil companies that may want to drill there. In January, the Trump Administration opened up more than 90 percent of the federal offshore area to potential lease sales. Individual states largely oppose offshore drilling, fearing that another Deepwater Horizon disaster could ruin their tourism economies. But because state waters end three miles off the coast and federal waters aren’t subject to state rules, states have found themselves trying to negotiate with a mercurial federal government.
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Did drilling off NC coast just move one step closer?
Environmentalists sue NOAA after agency last month said companies could harass fish and mammals during seismic testing
A federal agency announced last month that companies exploring for oil and natural gas in the Atlantic Ocean could incidentally harass marine mammals using seismic airguns, a process that has been widely criticized by environmental groups and leaves the door open to further activity off the North Carolina coast.
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Groups sue feds to stop seismic airgun blasting in Atlantic Ocean
Leading environmental groups sued the federal government today to prevent seismic airgun blasting in the Atlantic Ocean. This extremely loud and dangerous process, which is used to search for oil and gas deposits deep below the ocean’s surface, is the first step toward offshore drilling. If allowed, seismic airgun blasting would harm marine life, including whales, dolphins, fish and zooplankton – the foundation of the ocean food web.

The lawsuit, filed in South Carolina, claims that the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) violated the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act when it issued Incidental Harassment Authorizations (IHAs) in late November. Those permits authorize five companies to harm or harass marine mammals while conducting seismic airgun blasting in an area twice the size of California, stretching from Cape May, New Jersey to Cape Canaveral, Florida.

The government has estimated that seismic airgun blasting in the Atlantic could harass or harm marine mammals like dolphins and whales – which depend on sound to feed, mate and communicate – hundreds of thousands of times. Seismic airgun blasting would also jeopardize the iconic North Atlantic right whale, a critically endangered species, according to 28 leading right whale experts.
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What did N.C. leaders do to reinforce their opposition to offshore drilling?
Less than a month after the federal government took an important step toward issuing seismic testing permits, North Carolina leaders have reiterated the state’s opposition to seismic and any other steps that could ultimately lead toward offshore drilling. Thursday, N.C. Governor Roy Cooper joined a bipartisan group of East Coast governors in a letter stating their strong opposition to both offshore drilling and seismic testing, while Attorney General Josh Stein was part of a group of attorneys general intervening in a lawsuit against the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).
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Previously reported – January 2019
Dems introduce bills to block offshore drilling
A group of House Democrats introduced a suite of eight bills Tuesday aimed at blocking President Trump’s proposal to expand offshore oil and natural gas drilling around the country. Taken together, the bills would ban or put a 10-year moratorium on offshore drilling in the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic oceans, as well as the eastern Gulf of Mexico. The bills came as the Interior Department is expected soon to move forward on its plan released in January 2018 to open the offshore areas of the Atlantic, Pacific, Arctic and Gulf coasts to offshore oil and natural gas drilling. That plan has met stiff opposition from political leaders and coastal communities that neighbor nearly all of the areas.
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Previously reported – February 2019
Bill introduced to prevent seismic air gun testing in Atlantic Ocean
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Previously reported – March 2019
Bipartisan opposition is clear against Trump’s offshore drilling
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The objections to offshore drilling are economic, environmental and bipartisan
Offshore drilling in the Atlantic and the related seismic airgun blasting used to identify oil and gas deposits pose unacceptable risks to East Coast economies, marine life and our environment.

But the Trump administration, with a “drill baby, drill” mind-set, has awarded permits allowing five companies to “incidentally” harass whales, dolphins and other marine life by performing deafening seismic blasting — the precursor to oil and gas drilling — from Cape May, N.J., to Cape Canaveral, Fla.

While federal lawsuits aim to stop the rush to blast and drill, the Trump administration should abandon this precipitous course. Every state governor up and down the coast from both sides of the aisle is opposed to this terrible move, and coastal communities are united against it. President Trump has the opportunity to do the right, bipartisan thing by stopping these permits from moving forward — or the courts may decide for him.

The Virginia, Maryland and North Carolina coasts, which boast some of the best beaches, magnificent natural habitats and robust coastal economies on the Eastern Seaboard, are firmly in the oil industry’s crosshairs.

For Virginia, offshore drilling would put 86,000 jobs and $4.8 billion in GDP from coastal tourism and fishing at risk, according to the environmental and conservation group Oceana. For Maryland, 96,000 jobs and $6 billion would be imperiled, while in North Carolina, offshore drilling would threaten 51,000 jobs and $2.2 billion in GDP. This when there is little demand for more oil.

But let’s not forget about the impact on marine life.

In Virginia and Maryland, the Chesapeake Bay’s blue crab, the protagonist in William W. Warner’s Pulitzer-winning Beautiful Swimmers, have survived just about every attack thrown its way — overharvesting, pollution and habitat destruction among others. Now, one threat looms that may be their death knell.

Maryland often takes credit for the blue crab, but every bay crab is born a Virginian. Pregnant females spend the winter at the mouth of the bay, then release their larvae to float as far as 50 miles out into the ocean, directly where energy companies are proposing to test and drill.

When they grow fins, they dive to the bottom and ride underwater currents back to the bay. Until then, they are vulnerable, and an oil spill could be their undoing, potentially killing an entire year of juvenile crabs. That’s to say nothing of the impact on other finfish and shellfish.

If implemented, seismic airgun blasts — which are used to identify offshore deposits and can be heard up to 2,500 miles away — would occur five million times, or every 10 seconds for weeks on end, disrupting turtle mating, whale migrating, fish feeding and other marine activities along the entire East Coast.

Among the louder noises in oceans, the blasts would endanger communities of beaked whales, which are particularly sensitive to underwater noise, off North Carolina’s Outer Banks, and could irreparably harm North Atlantic right whales, which are on the verge of extinction, with only 400 remaining in the Atlantic.

When the blasting is over, it’s time for the drilling. With oil spills, it’s not a question of if, but when, and the results can be catastrophic. The 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon disaster spilled 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, killed 11 workers and caused fisheries to lose $8.7 billion and 22,000 jobs by 2020. But leaving Deepwater aside, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management says that another 2,440 oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico between 1964 and 2015 discharged more than 12 million gallons of oil into the Gulf. A 2016 survey of the oil industry found an average 23 spills a day across the United States.

Offshore wells also pollute the air. An typical oil and gas exploration well releases roughly 50 tons of nitrogen oxides, 13 tons of carbon monoxide and six tons of sulfur oxides a year. And what goes up does come down. Almost 30 percent of the Bay’s nitrogen pollution, the chemical responsible for underwater dead zones, arrives on the wind, and introducing a new pollution source would put the bay’s fragile recovery at risk.

Communities up and down the east coast have voted to oppose offshore drilling. They all recognize the risk is simply not worth the meager rewards, if any, of more oil produced in an oil-glutted market on a planet with a rapidly changing climate threatening our very existence.

Now is the time to move away from expensive and inefficient fossil fuels toward a 21st-century regime of innovative, job-creating alternative energies that will promise a brighter future for all. And, at the same time, save precious marine life and coastal economies alike.
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Previously reported – April 2019
Bill would ban offshore drilling on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts
In late March, Rep. Joe Cunningham, D-S.C., introduced the Coastal and Marine Economies Protection Act, bipartisan legislation that would permanently ban oil and gas leasing off the coasts of the Pacific and Atlantic. The bill would amend the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act to prohibit the secretary of the Interior from including in any leasing program certain planning areas.
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Report finds ‘alarming unaddressed deficiencies’ in US offshore oil drilling
Even as the Trump administration has taken steps to expand offshore oil drilling, a new report shows that thousands of oil spills are still happening and that workers in the oil and gas industry are still dying on the job. The report comes from Oceana, a nonpartisan nonprofit dedicated to protecting and restoring the oceans, which has sued the federal government to stop seismic airgun blasting in the Atlantic Ocean. The blasting is the first step needed to allow offshore drilling, when seismic airguns are used to find oil and gas deep under the ocean. Every state along the Atlantic coast has opposed the blasting, worried that spills could hurt tourism and local fisheries. Some scientists say the testing could also hurt marine life, including the highly endangered North Atlantic right whale. The group tied its report, released Thursday, to the ninth anniversary of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill to show what has been happening since the government promised to hold the industry accountable to higher safety standards.
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Previously reported – May 2019
Interior Dept. Delays Its Plan to Open U.S. Coastline to Drilling
The Trump administration on Thursday confirmed that it will likely delay the release of a long-awaited plan that had been expected to open most of the nation’s coastline for offshore oil drilling, pending the final outcome of a recent court decision that blocks drilling off the Alaskan coast. The delay appears to be an acknowledgment that the court decision is a significant setback for what President Trump has called his policy of “energy dominance” — an effort to rapidly expand oil and gas drilling across the country. The reason given for the delay was a March decision by a federal judge in Alaska to reinstate an Obama-era ban on Arctic drilling. “Given the recent court decision, the Department is simply evaluating all of its options to determine the best pathway to accomplish the mission entrusted to it by the President,” a spokeswoman for the Interior Department, Molly Block, wrote in an email. The delay was reported by The Wall Street Journal, quoting the Interior Department’s new secretary, David Bernhardt, as saying, “By the time the court rules, that may be discombobulating to our plan,” adding, “What if you guess wrong?” in reference to the uncertain outcome of the legal appeals process. The delay is the latest legal stumble in Mr. Trump’s effort to roll back environmental protections and increase fossil fuel production. Experts in environmental law estimate that, in its quest to quickly undo existing environmental protections, the administration has now lost about 40 cases in federal courts. In following Mr. Trump’s directive to expand offshore oil and gas drilling to almost the entire United States coastline, the Interior Department released a draft plan last year and was expected to release a final version this year. Oil industry lobbyists and Republicans on Capitol Hill who have worked closely with the administration on crafting the plan said earlier this year that they expected the final plan to be released this spring. The draft plan called for drilling off nearly the entire United States coastline. But the March 30 decision by Judge Sharon L. Gleason of the United States District Court for the District of Alaska concluded that a ban by President Obama on about 120 million acres of the Arctic Ocean and about 3.8 million acres in the Atlantic “will remain in full force and effect unless and until revoked by Congress.” She wrote that an April 2017 executive order by Mr. Trump revoking the drilling ban “is unlawful, as it exceeded the president’s authority.” Environmental groups cheered Thursday’s delay. “Every single governor from Maine to Florida and from Washington to California oppose offshore drilling off their coast,” said Collin O’Mara, president of National Wildlife Federation. “Republican and Democrat alike.” The oil industry expressed optimism that the legal case would be resolved quickly and that the plan could then be finalized. “We are hopeful that an appeal of this case will move quickly and that we can proceed with the important work of exploring for America’s offshore resources without unnecessary delay,” said Erik Milito, a vice president of the American Petroleum Institute, which lobbies for oil companies.
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Trump’s Offshore Oil-Drilling Plan Sidelined Indefinitely
Interior Secretary David Bernhardt cites recent court decision blocking Arctic drilling
The Trump administration’s proposal to vastly expand offshore oil and gas drilling has been sidelined indefinitely as the Interior Department grapples with a recent court decision that blocks Arctic drilling, according to Interior Secretary David Bernhardt. The ruling by a federal judge last month may force Interior officials to wait until the case goes through potentially lengthy appeals before they can make a final decision on what offshore areas to open up for the oil-and-gas industry, Mr. Bernhardt said.
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For now, plans are on hold for oil drilling off the North Carolina coast. This comes after an announcement by Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt. In late April, he announced the Department was waiting for a decision on appeals of a court order blocking offshore drilling in the Arctic and within specific canyons in the North and Mid-Atlantic before continuing expansions on the East Coast.

While the news is good, it is being met with cautious optimism and opponents to drilling are not letting their guard down.

“This ruling may have temporarily stopped the clock but it does not diminish the threat of drilling along the North Carolina coast,” said Todd Miller, executive director of the North Carolina Coastal Federation.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management still has scheduled open houses in Kill Devil Hills and Morehead City later this year, indicating the East Coast could still be considered in long-term drilling plans.

Federation members are encouraged to call their state and federal representatives to express concerns about the detrimental impacts offshore oil and gas exploration and seismic surveying would have on our coast. We support and are encouraging state legislation that would prevent offshore drilling.

The federation and Don’t Drill NC Coalition partners continue to track activity and are providing updates at nccoast.org/oil.

Brunswick commissioners pressured on offshore drilling
Board is one of the few NC coastal governments that hasn’t come out against offshore drilling and seismic testing
“Save our Coast.” Those words echoed across the parking lot of the Brunswick County Government Center Monday night as citizens held a rally to oppose offshore drilling and seismic testing along North Carolina’s coast. The rally was one of many that have taken place in recent years, and it comes on the heels of Saturday’s “Hands Across the Sand,” where hundreds of citizens gathered on Brunswick County’s beaches and joined hands to show their opposition to the opening of the Tar Heel coast to drilling. For years, citizens across the county have urged commissioners to take a stance against offshore drilling. But despite the pleas, the board has taken no action, opting to take a neutral stance. In 2015 Brunswick County became one of the only local coastal N.C. governments to come out in favor of offshore drilling. The commissioners rescinded that resolution in March 2018 after a narrow 3-2 vote, but have yet to take any further action for or against drilling off the N.C. coast. So far, 13 of the county’s 19 municipalities have adopted resolutions against offshore drilling. The New Hanover County Commissioners, Wilmington City Council and beach towns in New Hanover and Pender counties also have passed resolutions opposing offshore drilling. Residents Monday night said they will continue to attend the meetings and speaking out against drilling and seismic testing until the Brunswick commissioners “takes a stand, one way or the other.”
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Previously reported – June 2019
State finds seismic testing inconsistent with coastal management policies
The N.C. Division of Coastal Management has found that a proposed seismic survey related to oil and gas exploration in the Atlantic Ocean off the North Carolina coast is inconsistent with state coastal management policies. After review, the agency formally objected to the proposed activity by WesternGeco and found it inconsistent with state policies as outlined in a letter to the company from Coastal Management Director Braxton Davis. “Our review included substantial input from outside subject matter experts, North Carolina state agencies and the general public,” Davis said. “Based on our review, we have determined that the proposed seismic surveys would have significant adverse impacts on fish and marine food webs, sensitive fish habitats, commercial and recreational fisheries, and the coastal economy.”  WesternGeco proposes to conduct a Marine Geophysical Survey via 2D seismic survey off the North Carolina coast to gather geological and geophysical data that could provide information about the feasibility of future development of offshore oil and gas resources. The full proposed survey area extends from approximately 19 miles offshore of the southeast coast of Maryland south to approximately 50 miles offshore of St. Augustine, Florida. The survey would involve a vessel towing a seismic airgun array, with operations occurring an estimated 208 days over a period of about a year. The Division of Coastal Management anticipates that airgun arrays will fire approximately every 10 seconds and be in continuous operation as weather and other logistics allow. Sound will be generated across a wide range of frequencies, from approximately 10 to 2000 Hz, with noise levels generally ranging from 225 to 260 decibels. The survey would take place entirely in federal waters, adjacent to North Carolina’s coastal zone. State law does not require coastal development permits for projects outside of the state waters, but the federal Coastal Zone Management Act requires that projects needing federal permits be found consistent with the state’s coastal policies when the proposed activity may affect any land use, water use or natural resource within the state’s coastal zone. Under the Coastal Zone Management Act, WesternGeco may appeal the state’s objection to the federal secretary of commerce, who can override or sustain the state objection. The appeal must be filed within 30 days of receipt. Documents pertaining to the proposed project are available on the division’s website.
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House votes to block offshore drilling across US for one year
A spending bill passed by the House late Thursday would block offshore drilling along most U.S. shores, taking development of all of the Atlantic and Pacific coasts off the table. Passed as part of a bill funding the Department of the Interior, the measure would bar new offshore development through fiscal 2020. Members on both sides of the aisle have pushed for measures that would limit drilling along their state’s shorelines. The collection of amendments included in the bill limit new development in most coastal waters, including the Florida portion of the Gulf of Mexico.  “It’s pretty cut and dry where I come from. We don’t want it and we don’t need it,” Rep. Joe Cunningham (D-S.C.) said at a meeting earlier this week to review offshore drilling bans. Another portion of the bill would block the seismic testing used to find oil and gas reserves. The Trump administration has pushed an energy dominance strategy that includes further offshore drilling, but Interior Secretary David Bernhardt has yet to unveil the department’s five-year offshore drilling plan, citing the uncertainty surrounding an Alaska case that blocks development there. A number of environmental groups expressed support for the spending bill. “Today’s vote to block offshore drilling underscores the strength and bipartisanship of opposition to dirty and dangerous offshore drilling,” Diane Hoskins, campaign director at Oceana, a marine protection group, said in a statement. The spending bill must still be taken up by the Senate. Earlier this week, a House committee forwarded two stand-alone bills that would also block drilling in most U.S. waters.
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