Outer Banks Sentinel
May 3, 2017
By Karen Brown, President & CEO | Outer Banks Chamber Of Commerce
In a recent meeting with oil industry representatives, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke discussed Trump administration plans to issue an executive order aimed at opening protected, economically important waters off our coasts to offshore drilling. Just a few weeks ago, the Business Alliance for Protecting the Atlantic Coast (BAPAC) went to Washington D.C. to fight just such efforts, and to deliver a strong message to representatives in Congress: offshore oil and gas drilling and exploration is bad for business. It’s a message that’s been ringing throughout coastal North Carolina towns and echoing up the entire Atlantic coast.
With the signing of this executive order, it’s more important than ever for our representatives to hear us.
BAPAC is a recently formed coalition devoted to protecting the long-term health and economic vitality of the entire Eastern seaboard. Currently BAPAC represents over 35,000 businesses and 500,000 fishing families along the East Coast. The association brings together a variety of individuals from all walks of life, but we all tow the same line when it comes to offshore oil and gas operations. The success of each and every one of our businesses is linked to a clean, healthy Atlantic — when our ocean is in trouble, so are our livelihoods.
Representing North Carolina business interests, BAPAC members travelled to our nation’s capital and met with the elected officials who have the power to protect the Atlantic coast for generations to come. BAPAC reiterated just how high the stakes are for North Carolina businesses and how offshore oil and gas activities in our waters could irrevocably destroy so many of our coastal communities.
North Carolina offers a unique landscape where locals and tourists alike can enjoy over 300 miles of barrier island beaches, historic monuments, and a multitude of charming beach towns that dot the coast. Healthy oceans bring in roughly $2.2 billion and support almost 51,000 jobs each year, mainly through fishing, tourism and recreation. This crucial economic driver fuels the lives of many North Carolinians, putting food on their plates, providing reliable incomes, and spurring economic growth throughout the greater region. But the mechanism only works if the Atlantic Ocean remains untarnished by oil.
Offshore Oil and gas drilling and exploration would directly jeopardize all of this. It could transform our barrier island attractions into desolate, industrialized oil towns, and eliminate our way of life in the process. It would also pose the very real risk of an oil spill, from the everyday leaks, but one on par with BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster. Tourism plummeted after the disaster and the impact of the spill on fisheries in the Gulf could total $8.7 billion by 2020. Even places along the Gulf Coast that never saw a drop of oil suffered from cancellations and had trouble booking future events for months after the spill. Oil spills don’t follow state boundaries, and one off North Carolina could endanger the entire Atlantic seaboard, along with the $95 billion and 1.4 million jobs it supports each year.
The exploration process poses a threat too. Companies use seismic airguns to map subsea oil and gas deposits, and the noise from these repeated blasts is dangerous for marine life from oysters and scallops to turtles and whales. Our commercial and recreational fishing industries are particularly vulnerable to noise — studies show that catch rates drop by 40% to 80% for important fish stocks, even when thousands of miles from the airgun source.
Oil and gas activities are fundamentally at odds with what makes North Carolina such an incredible place to live and visit. The past Administration made the right call by protecting the East Coast from offshore drilling activities. BAPAC expects the current federal government and our elected officials to do the same.