The Carolina Beach Town Council unanimously approved a
resolution against proposed seismic testing off the Mid-Atlantic coast, a day
after the federal government released a report that recommended allowing the
controversial practice, but with mitigation measures designed to protect marine
The council’s special meeting preceded its Feb. 28 regular
meeting, and about a dozen residents who showed up to support the vote
applauded the resolution’s passage.
After the special meeting, mayor Dan Wilcox said the
council’s vote stemmed in part from the Kure Beach Town Council’s Jan. 27public
hearing, which drew hundreds of local residents after Kure Beach
mayor Dean Lambeth signed a letter in support of allowing the tests, which use
powerful blasts of air to survey the ocean floor for oil and gas deposits.
“We listened to everything at the Kure Beach hearing, and I
think we all independently knew where we stood on it,” Wilcox said. “I’m not
necessarily against offshore drilling, depending on what methodology you use …
I’m just not hearing compelling information to make me feel it is a safe
process, as it stands.”
Environmentalists have expressed concerns that the air blasts and resulting sound waves
kill and injure marine life, including protected species such as right whales
and sea turtles. They point to government studies that estimate up to 138,000
marine mammals could be killed as a result of the testing.
But the oil and gas industries have maintained that the
practice is safe for marine mammals, and that the tests are necessary for determining
the extent of fossil fuel reserves off the Mid-Atlantic coast. Andy Radford, a
senior policy advisor for the American Petroleum Institute, said during the
Kure Beach meeting that no impacts to marine life have been proven after
decades of seismic testing across the globe.
Carolina Beach resident and board chair of the Surfrider
Foundation’s Cape Fear chapter Ethan Crouch spoke in favor of the resolution,
thanking the council for their vote. He added after the meeting he had mixed
reactions to the federal report, released by the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) Feb. 27.
“I’m glad BOEM didn’t pursue ‘Option A,’ which is sort of
the full-out testing procedures. I’m glad they are trying to use the best
mitigation strategies,” Crouch said. “But whether those mitigation strategies
will be sufficient to protect marine life remains to be seen.”
The report, known as a programmatic environmental impact statement, reviewed existing studies and scientific data addressing seismic testing,
and recommended several mitigation practices in its preferred alternative, including
seasonal closures of areas in response to marine mammal migrations and sea
turtle nesting, and site-specific environmental assessments of the area before
Nine companies have pending applications with BOEM to conduct seismic surveys in the Mid-Atlantic. Six of those applications include areas off the coast of Southeast North Carolina in their proposed
survey maps. One of the applications was incomplete and not available from the
During a Feb. 27 conference call accompanying the release of
the report, BOEM Director Tommy Beaudrea stressed that the recommendation
required stringent environmental restrictions.
“We’re really going to require and demand a high level of
environmental performance,” Beaudrea said. “Essentially, [the surveyors] are
really going to have to up their game and use the best technologies to avoid
any potential conflicts and environmental impacts.”
The report is available for public review and comment until
April 7. After that date, Beaudrea said the agency could begin reviewing and
processing the applications, although he noted that many will likely require
revisions before moving forward.