BOGUE BANKS — Seismic survey permits will expire at the end of November, and local town officials and environmental groups are pleased with the news.
The Associated Press reported Sunday federal officials and company representatives have announced federal permits for offshore seismic surveying will expire Monday, Nov. 30. Seismic surveying is a form of oil and gas exploration that some coastal residents, community governments, environmentalists and others in North Carolina – including in Carteret County – have opposed in recent years. Reasons for the opposition include concerns about potential effects on marine animals from the compressed air gun blasts used in the surveys, as well as the potential effects of any resulting offshore oil or gas drilling on the environment and tourism-based coastal economies.
In Carteret County, Pine Knoll Shores Mayor John Brodman said in a Monday email to the News-Times most residents and town officials are opposed to offshore oil and gas exploration.
“The Pine Knoll Shores board of commissioners, like almost every other town on the eastern seaboard of North Carolina, passed a resolution in 2017 against offshore oil exploration and development of oil and gas,” the mayor said. “People were pleased, by and large, when Sen. (Thom) Tillis finally announced that President (Donald) Trump would indeed include North Carolina in the 12-year moratorium on offshore oil and gas leasing and drilling.”
President Trump extended a 12-year moratorium on offshore drilling along the Atlantic Coast Sept. 25 to include the waters off North Carolina. The AP reports federal government representatives said during a federal court hearing Oct. 1 existing seismic survey permits can’t be extended before they expire.
Mayor Brodman said with weak conditions in the current oil and gas markets, he doesn’t think many oil companies are willing to risk the investment needed to explore for fossil fuels off the state’s coast.
“I don’t foresee this economic reality changing much for years to come,” the mayor said. “There are plenty of lower-cost, onshore projects with great potential that will be developed first if we need them. I also don’t see PKS’s position against offshore leasing/drilling changing either.”
Mayor Brodman isn’t the only mayor of a Bogue Banks town who’s opposed to offshore drilling. Emerald Isle Mayor Eddie Barber said his position hasn’t changed since 2017 either.
“I’m delighted they’re not going to extend offshore drilling to North Carolina,” Mayor Barber said, “and I think others are too. I think drilling offshore would be very detrimental to our coast.”
Several environmental groups seem pleased with the announcement, as well. On Oct. 2, Coastal Carolina Riverwatch, which has an affiliate office in Morehead City, issued a release thanking its partners, members and supporters “in the fight for our coast.”
“The suspension of seismic blasting and offshore drilling is the result of tireless grassroots efforts led by coastal communities of the Atlantic,” CCR said. “We applaud the residents, businesses and political leaders who have continually spoken out...We will remain vigilant in ensuring these moratoriums are upheld and continue to fight until seismic blasting and offshore drilling are permanently banned on the Atlantic coast.”
Oceana Campaign Director Diane Hoskins said in a release, “Communities can breathe a little easier knowing the Atlantic is now save from seismic airgun blasting in 2020.”
“Today’s (Oct. 1) much-needed news is a bright spot in in-line with the court of public opinion,” Ms. Hoskins said. “Over 90 percent of coastal municipalities in the proposed blast zone are opposed to opening our coast to offshore drilling and its dangerous precursor, seismic airgun blasting.”
The Center for Biological Diversity said in it’s own release the court hearing marked “a victory for dozens of organizations and thousands of coastal communities and businesses in a years-long legal and public battle, challenging the government’s issuance of incidental harassment authorizations.”
“Those authorizations were needed because the airgun bombardment of the seafloor would have hurt ocean animals, including the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale,” the CBD said.
Contact Mike Shutak at 252-723-7353, email email@example.com; or follow on Twitter at @mikesccnt.