Wilmington Star News
January 16, 2018
Brunswick revokes previous stance on offshore drilling
By Adam Wagner
Narrow vote means the county does not support or oppose offshore drilling, at least for now.
BRUNSWICK COUNTY — In a surprise vote Tuesday, Brunswick County voted by the slimmest possible margin to walk back its support for offshore drilling and seismic testing.
Frank Williams, the board’s chair, cast the deciding vote to rescind the board’s 2015 pro-drilling resolution, joining commissioners Mike Forte and Randy Thompson. Marty Cooke and Pat Sykes voted to keep the previous position in place.
Brunswick’s decision leaves Carteret County as the only governmental body in coastal North Carolina to support offshore exploration, while more than 30 local governments — including nine in Brunswick County and most of the governments in neighboring New Hanover County — have passed resolutions in opposition.
Williams, who cited business interests in recusing himself from both the original 2015 vote and then a failed effort to rescind that resolution later in the summer, said he was casting his vote Tuesday “largely because, as someone pointed out, our beach towns, our governments, our other elected officials have weighed in.”
After expressing his support for Thompson’s motion, Williams also said he would soon write a letter to the federal government calling on them to hold a public hearing on the five-year plan in Brunswick County. The only hearing presently scheduled in North Carolina is in Raleigh.
The Brunswick board will take 30 days to review information about offshore drilling and seismic testing before possibly voting on another offshore drilling resolution.
More than 200 people attended the board’s meeting, many of them clad in the baby blue shirts of the Brunswick Environmental Action Team (BEAT) or the navy blue shirts of Oceana. Protect Our Coast signs lined the roads leading to the David R. Sandifer Administration Building, where the board gathers.
After the meeting, Dwight Willis, a board member of the Brunswick Environmental Action Team, said, “It’s not a complete win. …. But it’s going to be hard for them to go back to a pro-drilling stance.”
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper and the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality have expressed strong opposition to offshore exploration, particularly in light of a draft plan released earlier this month that would open the North Carolina coast to drilling and seismic testing between 2019 and 2024.
Many of the 10 speakers during Tuesday’s public comment period referenced offshore drilling and seismic testing’s potential impacts to the county’s existing fishing and tourism economies.
“I find it shocking that the commissioners voted two years ago to support it, especially because of the industries there are here in the county,” said Dr. Kristen Colleran, a veterinarian who lives in Ocean Isle Beach.
Other speakers pointed to the opposition by other governments in the county, saying they were proof of significant opposition and that commissioners who represented those citizens should also vote against offshore exploration.
“We are asking you to vote tonight. Do not abstain. Give us an answer. When four out of five communities in your district are against it, you can’t say you’re for it,” said Peter Key, a board member of BEAT and Oak Island realtor.
After the public spoke, the commissioners weighed in, led by Thompson, who pointed to the Military Ocean Terminal Sunny Point and the nearby Brunswick Nuclear Plant as existing possibly risky industries in the county. He then made his motion, drawing applause from much of the crowd.
Forte followed, saying, “For lack of a better term, don’t screw with our beaches.”
Sykes, who pushed the board in 2015 to reverse its pro-drilling stance and return to neutral, then announced she would vote to keep the existing resolution intact.
“Just like flying an airplane, accidents happen (with drilling),” she said, later adding, ”(A resolution) is just a piece of paper that won’t be considered.”
Cooke, who pushed strongly for the 2015 resolution, pointed to his realty business and solar panel farms owned by his family as proof that he is serious about the environment.
“I don’t think it’s going to be as big an issue as some people are saying. … I don’t think the sky is going to fall and if I did, I’d be the first person to have one of those (Don’t Drill N.C.) placards on my car,” Cooke said.
January 16, 2018
Brunswick County Commissioners
5300 Main Street
Shallotte, NC 28470
The Business Alliance for Protecting the Atlantic Coast (BAPAC) is the leading business voice opposing testing and drilling for oil in the Atlantic. Today we have over 42,000 business supporters from Manie to Florida. On our Board of Directors are the CEOs of two North Carolina Chambers, the Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce and Carteret County Chamber of Commerce.
All of our businesses understand that their vibrant tourism, commercial fishing and recreation economies are incompatible with offshore testing and drilling for oil and its inevitable leaks and spills. This opposition is bipartisan because coastal businesses understand that they depend on a healthy ocean for their local economies.
Elected officials of all political persuasions at the local, state and national levels have put their names on letters and resolutions opposing the federal government’s giving permits for seismic testing and approving the Atlantic for oil drilling.
Just to your south, Mayor Brenda Bethune of Myrtle Beach has just sent a letter to a South Carolina Legislative Committee taking a stand for her city’s beaches and economy (see attached). Much further south, the Governor of Florida recently asked the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Interior to remove his state from being considered for offshore drilling based on the importance of coastal tourism to his state’s economy. His request was granted.
We ask that Brunswick County join the 33 other North Carolina cities and 140 municipalities on the East Coast in passing a resolution opposing offshore testing and drilling for oil in the Atlantic. As BAPAC’s over 42,000 business supporters clearly demonstrate, your local businesses will support such a resolution.
Thank you for your consideration of our request. Don’t hesitate to contact me if I can be of any assistance.
Frank Knapp Jr.
President & CEO
Business Alliance for Protecting the Atlantic Ocean