(Correction: On March 14 The Carolinian misreported the spelling of Joe Ramus’ last name as “Ramos.” The article has been updated to reflect this.)
While the American Petroleum Institute (API) held an event on Tuesday, Feb. 27, a crowd of around 400 people formed directly across the hall to attend a public hearing on offshore drilling on North Carolina’s coast.
“Not only would one drop of oil on our shores cost us billions of dollars in revenue, it would cost us our way of life,” said Rep. Deb Butler, a Wilmington Democrat.
While those who went to the API’s “Keep Exploring North Carolina” event wore formal wear, protesters across the hall chanted to “Save Our Coasts.”
“The Cooper administration is very proud, proud of you because of your unwavering dedication and objections to offshore drilling,” Michael Regan, secretary of the North Carolina Department of Energy Quality, told the crowd at the public hearing. “We are here standing shoulder to shoulder with every one of you, letting them know their plan is not OK with the people of North Carolina.”
Many people’s concerns have stemmed from a plan from President Trump that included opening up the Atlantic Ocean to drilling for oil and gas. Those who oppose drilling in North Carolina claim it could have both environmental and economic effects on the state, especially when it comes to the tourism industry.
“We have a $3.4 billion industry supporting 36,000 jobs right now,” said Lee Nettles, Executive Director of the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau. “Oil and gas threatens that. It threatens our beaches. It threatens the second largest estuary in the whole country, our first national seashore in the whole country – Cape Hatteras. It threatens our shoreline. It threatens our people. It threatens our way of life. It threatens our way of living.”
Groups such as FreedomWorks, conservative libertarians, disagree with these concerns. Chairman of the Alamance County Tea Party Steve Carter told NC Policy Watch that he believed exploration is “the right thing to do,” and he was unconcerned about any fallout. Other proponents of offshore drilling believe that it will bring more full-time jobs and will help provide the United States with more domestic resources.
“I believe it would be a great opportunity for some of these people to make some money,” Dane Evans, a commercial fisherman, told WITN-TV in Greenville, North Carolina. “To have a steady job, steady income and take care of their kids and their family. I believe it would be a great idea to drill.”
Until now, North Carolina has been off limits to offshore drilling. In the past five years, over 30 local governments on North Carolina’s coast have passed resolutions against drilling for both oil and gas extraction.
“There’s a lot of risk involved in drilling and it’s not commensurate with what might be gained economically. We have a very viable coastal, ecotourism industry,” said Joe Ramus, who serves on the board of directors for the North Carolina Coastal Federation, to Public Radio East. Ramus was one of the many protesters who was bussed in to attend the public hearing. “And why put that at risk for a resource that frankly, we don’t need? There’s a glut of oil in the world.”