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Brunswick one of only two N.C. counties to support offshore drilling

BRUNSWICK COUNTY — A pair of North Carolina counties are the only governments in the state to support seismic testing off their coasts.

Brunswick and Carteret counties each passed resolutions supporting seismic testing off the Atlantic Coast, while, according to environmental group Oceana, at least 29 government bodies have passed resolutions opposing either testing or offshore exploration. The group lists a total 90 governments along the Eastern seaboard who have passed opposition resolutions.

Brunswick County initially approved its offshore drilling resolution in July, then a month later voted against a resolution that would have made the county neutral again. Several other governments within the county passed resolutions opposing either seismic testing or drilling, including Bald Head Island, Carolina Shores, Caswell Beach, Holden Beach, Oak Island, Ocean Isle Beach and Sunset Beach.

County residents insist their fight against testing and offshore exploration isn’t over, while one of the commissioners who supported offshore exploration in July and then again in August is adamant the board has done its due diligence.

“I don’t think the people in public office should sit there and be blown back and forth by what way the public sentiment goes,” said Marty Cooke, a commissioner whose district covers a coastal part of the county.

Cooke added that he believes an environmental disaster is more likely from any number of trucks traveling up U.S. 17 every day than it is from offshore exploration.

The commissioners, he said, weren’t voting to start drilling immediately, but to allow a process overseen by the Federal government to continue, if approved.

“We’re not the ones saying go ahead and do it,” Cooke said. “We’re saying something that’s federally overseen and is regulated and has a track record, this is what the oversight is.”

Related: Editorial: Oil drilling off the coast not worth the risk

Carrie Moffett, a county resident, is skeptical about the information commissioners relied on to craft their resolution.

Brunswick County’s July resolution states oil and natural gas production in the Atlantic will support 280,000 jobs and lead to $51 billion in government revenue within 18 years, information identical to that found in an American Petroleum Institute report.

A counter-study prepared for the Southern Environmental Law Center in December 2015 questioned the earlier report, saying it “presents too optimistic a view of the gains to the regional economy and fails to place oil and gas activity in the context of the larger ocean economy that may be vulnerable to disruptions from oil and gas.”

The county, Moffett believes, is unlikely to see much, if any, financial benefit from seismic exploration or offshore drilling off its coast. Furthermore, she and others are concerned about the impact offshore exploration could have on the county’s tourism industry.

“I’m hoping when they understand more about the revenue that we probably won’t get here in this area — when they understand the consequences — we’ll reconsider,” she said.

Claire Douglass, Oceana’s campaign director for climate and energy, said the group will continue supporting coastal towns despite the county’s support.

“We put up a fight and the fight’s not over,” Douglass said. “We lost the battle, but we’re winning the war and we need to keep going, hammering away.”

(c)2016 the Star-News (Wilmington, N.C.)

This article was written by Adam Wagner from Star-News, Wilmington, N.C. and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.