Staff photo by Allison Potter
Supporters of Oceana, in blue shirts, listen as Brady Bradshaw, founder of Echo Friendly Action, asks Commissioner Steve Pagley to abstain from the vote on a resolution opposing seismic testing during the Kure Beach Town Council meeting Tuesday, April 15.
Kure Beach voted 3-2 against taking a similar position to Wrightsville and Carolina beaches by rejecting a resolution opposing seismic airgun testing, arguing the topic is a federal issue.
Mayor Dean Lambeth, Mayor Pro Tem Craig Bloszinsky and Commissioner Steve Pagley made up the three majority votes.
Pagley’s vote was called into question earlier during the Tuesday, April 15 Kure Beach Town Council meeting, by one of two speakers in favor of the resolution.
Brady Bradshaw, founder of Echo Friendly Action, requested Pagley to abstain from the vote.
“Commissioner Pagley, we realize this vote tonight puts you in a very difficult position, because you’re a salesman with Consolidated Pipe and Supply, which supplies materials to the oil and gas industry,” Bradshaw said. “This is obviously a conflict of interest.”
Following the vote, Commissioner David Heglar, who voted in favor of the resolution, said a commissioner selling parts to an industry is not the same as a commissioner working for an industry. He added that Pagley’s business is in water, not oil.
“[Commissioners] can’t pull out of votes just because people make it unpopular for them,” Heglar said.
Town attorney A.A. Canoutas also said he did not see a conflict.
Commissioner Emilie Swearingen disagreed, listing two past examples.
“You abstain … because you have vested interest, it didn’t even have to be a direct, financial interest,” Swearingen said.
Heglar and Pagley said no Kure Beach citizens called them about the resolution. More than 15 resolution supporters were in attendance, with more than a dozen wearing blue Oceana T-shirts.
Swearingen said Kure Beach is one of 2,000 towns from Maine through Florida that could make a difference.
The crowd applauded after Swearingen’s comments and left the meeting, joining in a circle to discuss actions taken and next steps.
“It’s a federal issue,” Lambeth said after the meeting. “The folks at Kure Beach don’t really have much to say about it.”
He added during the May meeting there would be an agenda item stating the seismic testing issue may not be brought up for one year.
A Jan. 27 Kure Beach Town Council public hearing drew hundreds of residents in protest of Lambeth’s Dec. 19, 2013, signed letter to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management in support of seismic testing along North Carolina’s coast.
Seismic airgun testing uses powerful air blasts to survey for oil and gas deposits below the ocean floor.
The U.S. Department of the Interior estimates the blasts could injure and possibly kill up to 138,500 marine mammals.
Before the meeting, Bradshaw said the environmental impacts are staggering, and he is happy to see people flooding in the doors again.
“I’ve gotten over the notion that elected leaders are listening to us,” Bradshaw said after the meeting.
Earlier April 15, Oceana announced 110 local elected officials and 155 conservation and animal welfare organizations have joined opposition against seismic airgun use along the East Coast. Wrightsville Beach Aldermen opposed seismic testing in 2010, and Carolina Beach Town Council opposed seismic testing in February.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will make a final decision about seismic testing in the mid and south Atlantic Ocean after May 7, the end of the public comment period.