Memo-10-13-2015 - Item 11

MEMO TO:           Mayor Barber and Board of Commissioners

FROM:                  Frank A. Rush, Jr., Town Manager

SUBJECT:           Resolution Opposing Offshore Oil and Gas Drilling

The Board of Commissioners is scheduled to consider the attached Resolution Opposing Offshore Oil and Gas Drilling at its October 13 meeting.  The attached resolution is requested by a group of Emerald Isle concerned citizens working with the Don’t Drill NC campaign, and formally expresses the Town’s opposition to future offshore oil and gas drilling.

The Emerald Isle concerned citizens will address the Board at the October 13 meeting, and have delegated 4 individuals to speak on behalf of their group.  Planned speakers include Kelly Maroules, April Hardee, Hunter Wood, and Mary Meyer, and the group also expects to have many supporters in the audience.

The Emerald Isle group has been working with Oceana, a national environmental group, on the Don’t Drill NC campaign, and I have attached several handouts from that group outlining various concerns about offshore oil and gas drilling.  Don’t Drill NC and Oceana contend that the risks associated with offshore oil and gas drilling far outweigh any benefits, that the amount of oil and gas available does not justify activity off North Carolina, and that other clean energy sources should be pursued.

I have also attached several handouts from the National Ocean Industries Association (NOIA), which represents all facets of the domestic offshore energy industry.  NOIA contends that it is still very early in the process, and that any formal position should not be determined until after seismic testing is complete and the amount and location of oil and gas resources are determined.  NOIA contends that the resource can ultimately be extracted safely, and that significant economic benefits will accrue to North Carolina and the Nation.  

As you recall, Carteret County Shore Protection Officer Greg “rudi” Rudolph attended the Board’s April meeting, and briefed the Board on the “nuts and bolts” of the offshore oil and gas leasing, exploration, and production process.  I have attached a brief handout prepared by “rudi” in August 2015 that summarizes his remarks in April, and I have also summarized key points below:

  • the Federal government has scheduled offshore lease sales off the coast of North Carolina for 2021,
  • the potential lease areas are located 50 miles offshore or more (under current plans; note that there is speculation that this distance could be decreased in the future, and any reduction in the 50 mile buffer likely could not be included in the 2017-2022 lease program and would need to wait for the 2022 – 2027 lease plan),
  • planning and testing activities are expected in 2016, and the results of these activities will shape the demand for and pricing of future lease sales; at this point the oil and gas industry believes the resources are there, however, additional information is needed to determine how much, where and whether or not it is worthwhile to extract,
  • there are currently no mechanisms in Federal or State law to share significant revenues with the State and local governments in North Carolina,
  • State political leaders support offshore oil and gas development, and are actively seeking  1) a reduction of the 50 mile buffer to 30 miles, and  2) revenue sharing with North Carolina (potentially including additional revenues for beach nourishment, dredging, and environmental protection initiatives),
  • there is debate about the quantity of oil and gas available, and the economic viability of any significant oil and gas production activities,
  • there is debate about the likelihood and potential impacts of a spill on the North Carolina coast,
  • actual production, if it occurs, is likely at least 15 years away, or longer,
  • it is unclear how much resource may be located offshore of Emerald Isle specifically, and how far away from the Emerald Isle shoreline it may be located (past efforts have been focused more in the northern part of the NC coast), and
  • depending on the location of economically viable resources, onshore production facilities could be located in North Carolina (Morehead City port?, Wilmington port?) or perhaps in Virginia (Norfolk port?) or other states.

As you know, Emerald Isle is fortunate to enjoy the pristine coastal environment within and all around our town, and our quality of life and local economy are nearly completely dependent upon that pristine environment.  The same can likely be said for many other communities in coastal North Carolina, and many other coastal local governments have expressed their opposition to offshore oil and gas drilling.  A list of those communities is attached.

The Emerald Isle concerned citizens have been canvassing local businesses In Emerald Isle, many local businesses have also expressed their opposition to offshore oil and gas drilling.  I have also attached a list of those businesses for the Board’s review.

I look forward to the Board’s consideration of this issue at the October 13 meeting.