Outer Banks communities tell feds: Don’t drill off our coast

Environment North Carolina Research and Policy Center

Kill Devil Hills, NC –Three Outer Banks mayors joined business leaders and more than 600 community members at a public hearing Monday to voice their opposition to drilling off North Carolina’s coast The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), which is responsible for managing offshore energy development in federal waters, organized the hearing in Kill Devil Hills.

Speakers voiced a number of concerns, including how drilling could threaten marine life and the coastline, but the biggest concern was the impact that drilling could have on the local economy, which is largely driven by the tourism industry.

“As an elected official, I have an obligation to look out for the welfare of our town, residents, businesses and visitors,” said Kill Devil Hills Mayor Sheila F. Davies. “Offshore drilling for oil poses significant economic and environmental risks to our community. Tourism is the economic backbone of the Town of Kill Devil Hills. We are a world-famous destination with enormously productive fisheries that yield millions of dollars in revenue annually. Why would anyone risk a proven economic engine like tourism for one that is uncertain and carries such damaging potential as offshore drilling for oil?”

Mayor Bob Edwards from Nags Head and Mayor Monica Thibodeau of Duck joined Mayor Davies at the press conference, along with a representative from the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau, a local business owner, and two high school students.

“As residents of the Outer Banks, we would bear the brunt of the risk and reap no financial benefit,” said Duck Mayor Monica Thibodeau. “Experiencing even a minor mishap off our shoreline, would cost our community hundreds of jobs and thousands of lives would be gravely impacted.”

President Obama’s decision to open up the Atlantic coast to drilling comes as we approach the five-year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. That spill dumped more than 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, and communities are still feeling the effects.

“For an area like the Outer Banks, any threat to our shores and waters poses an existential threat to our community,” said Lee Nettles, Executive Director, Outer Banks Visitors Bureau.

In addition to economic impacts, investing in oil and gas exploration at the expense of clean energy sources like wind and solar power threatens our public health. According to the most recent National Climate Assessment, continued reliance on fossil fuels will lead to more heat-related illnesses, and increased emergency room visits and lost school days from asthma and other respiratory diseases.

“Living on the Outer Banks is all about experiencing the very best, like sunsets, and sometimes the worst, like hurricanes,” said Joe Thompson, Founder, Koru Village Resort and Spa. “We do not need more problems to face. Our economy is all about tourism, so we should protect the goose that lays the golden egg.”

Every five years, the federal government decides where to allow drilling off the U.S coast. The next five-year plan starts in 2017, and will run through 2022. In addition to holding forums to gather public input, BOEM is collecting public comments online, through the Regulations.gov website. The speakers today urged every North Carolinian who loves coming to the coast to ask the Obama administration to remove North Carolina from the upcoming five-year plan.