In response to a proposed federal natural gas and oil leasing program for the Atlantic, Governor Beverly Perdue of North Carolina created (by executive order) a Scientific Advisory Panel on Offshore Energy in September 2009. The stated purpose of this panel is to evaluate all offshore energy options (wind, tidal, gas, oil, etc.) and develop a comprehensive offshore energy strategy for the state. The panel is currently gathering written comments on the state’s offshore energy future as well as direct input from coastal North Carolinians during three public meetings in Wilmington, Manteo and Morehead City.
On Wednesday, January 19th, I had the opportunity to attend the advisory panel’s public meeting in Wilmington, NC. The room was nearly full with an estimated 75 people in attendance. Sixteen speakers, from all walks of life, provided public comment. Business owners, academics, retirees, farmers, veterans, environmentalists and the unemployed unanimously spoke in strong, unwavering support for utilizing the state’s greatest offshore energy resource – wind.
Every speaker provided their personal perspective as to why they believe the state should aggressively pursue offshore wind energy. Veterans spoke of the national security benefits, business owners spoke of the economic opportunities, the unemployed spoke of job potential and environmentalists spoke of a myriad of environmental benefits of offshore wind development.
Surprisingly, all 16 speakers spoke of the dangers and their concerns with drilling for oil off or gas off of their coast. Out of 16 speakers, only two were in support of drilling for natural gas only as a last resort and if all environmental safety standards could be proven effective. A concern heard over and over again from coastal constituents was in regards to drilling safety issues and how any sort of drilling-related accident or development could impact habitat, natural resources and tourism.
A local farmer asked the panel and the audience to follow him as he painted a mental image of what the North Carolina coast currently looks like with its beautiful beaches, the saltwater marshes, the sounds, and wildlife. He noted that besides one port city, nearly all of NC’s coast is pristine and breathtaking. The farmer recalled his time spent with the oil and gas industry in Louisiana and how their once beautiful coastline is now marred by coastal oil and gas infrastructure, how their marshlands are disappearing and how their coastal communities changed forever. He implored the panel not to trade his coast for oil or gas.
SACE applauds Governor Perdue for thoroughly exploring one of North Carolina’s greatest energy options: offshore wind. We welcome this opportunity to engage in meaningful conversation about the impacts of offshore oil and gas drilling and the benefits of clean renewable wind energy. In assessing whether or not North Carolina should allow offshore oil and gas development, we believe this panel must evaluate the worst case scenarios associated with the oil and gas industry to a level on par with the Deepwater Horizon disaster. The environmental, economic and national security implications of allowing petroleum production off North Carolina clearly outweigh any reported benefits by the oil industry. We recommend to this panel and Governor Perdue that the state not allow offshore oil or offshore natural gas development.
Although North Carolina has relatively insignificant offshore oil and natural gas resources, the state has vast offshore wind resources. Unlike oil rigs, the environmental effects of offshore wind farms are manageable and mostly beneficial to the marine environment. SACE encourages the responsible and rapid development of our offshore wind resources. SACE strongly supports North Carolina’s current renewable energy law and would like to see increased efforts to strengthen and expand those laws in the future, such that offshore wind energy development is further encouraged.
SACE plans to submit written comments to the panel and will post them at a later date.
To read the oral comments that I delivered at the Wilmington meeting, please click here.
Anyone who wishes to submit comments for the panel’s consideration may do so by emailing them to Seth Effron at seffron[at]nccommerce.com.
Note: Due to winter weather, public meetings in Manteo and Morehead City were postponed and will be scheduled for sometime in February. Please check back here for updates.