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Back You are here: Home News Local and State News Local Kure Beach Council Votes Not To Oppose Seismic Air Gun Testing

Kure Beach Council Votes Not To Oppose Seismic Air Gun Testing

Many people opposed the Town expressing support earlier this year saying the tests will harm marine life and the environment.

By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
Managing Editor

KURE BEACH - The Kure Beach Town Council once again took up the issue of seismic air-gun testing in the Atlantic Ocean for off-shore oil and natural gas exploration at their April 15th, meeting.
Council previously voted 3 to 2  giving Mayor Dean Lambeth permission to send a letter to Washington supporting seismic testing for off-shore oil and natural gas drilling. That resulted in unprecedented levels of public outcry opposing that position.
A crowd of approximately 300 people rallied at Kure Beach Town Hall on January 27th, to voice their opposition to Mayor Dean Lambeth signing a letter in December 2013 supporting seismic airgun testing for off shore oil and natural gas exploration.
The Mayor signed a letter written by America's Energy Forum - a group sponsored by the American Petroleum Institute - that describes its mission as, "a non-partisan community of concerned citizens committed to two goals – achieving energy security for our country, and holding our elected officials more accountable in shaping energy policies."
The letter sent in December was addressed to Tommy Beaudreau of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) in Washington D.C. The letter stated, "The downturn in the economy negatively impacted the economic situation in our region, and we are still in recovery. As coastal elected officials we are also addressing other serious issues such as flood insurance, beach re-nourishment and diversifying our economies so we can grow vibrant, economically healthy communities. One potential opportunity to create jobs and revenue for our communities is offshore oil and natural gas exploration."
The letter stated, "Studies show that development of offshore resources could create a significant number of well paying jobs for our communities as well as generate revenue for critical infrastructure projects. However, the seismic data, which could determine the offshore potential, is more than 30 years old and needs to be updated so that everyone involved can make sound business and policy decisions. Therefore, we are writing to urge you to move the process forward to approve permits for seismic studies so that we can begin the long overdue process of improving our energy and economic security."
The letter stated, "Furthermore, we understand that companies are prohibited from conducting any exploration and production activities in the Atlantic because the Atlantic Offshore Continental Shelf is not in the government's current "Five-Year Program for 2012 to 2017." Its exclusion further stymies jobs and revenue growth opportunities for our communities. Thus, we are also asking you to allow Atlantic OCS leasing before 2017. We are all strong and vocal supporters of protecting our environment and will work with all parties involved to ensure that both our shoreline and marine life are protected during the seismic testing process."
The letter explained, "However, many experts and studies have shown that this testing can be conducted in an environmentally safe manner. Seismic analyses are highly regulated and carefully managed by the operator to avoid impacting marine mammals, with on-board personnel who specialize in wildlife protection. Furthermore, allowing the long-awaited testing to go forward, coupled with an inclusion of the Atlantic in the next five-year program, will provide us with the needed information to better assess the potential revenue and jobs impact that offshore exploration will bring to our respective states and communities."
The letter stated, "We appreciate your consideration and once again ask BOEM to expeditiously approve seismic studies and allow leasing in the Atlantic OCS before 2017. We must begin generating jobs and revenue opportunities to rejuvenate the economies under our jurisdictions."
The letter was signed by Lambeth as Mayor of Kure Beach with the additional line, "I am pleased to add my name to the above letter."
According to Oceana.org, "Seismic airguns are used to find oil and gas deep underneath the ocean floor. Airguns are so loud that they disturb, injure or kill marine life, harm commercial fisheries, and disrupt coastal economies. These dynamite-like blasts—which are repeated every ten seconds, 24 hours a day, for days and weeks at a time—are 100,000 times more intense than a jet engine. Seismic airgun testing currently being proposed in the Atlantic will injure 138,500 whales and dolphins and disturb millions more, according to government estimates."
The sound waves that return to the vessel towing monitoring equipment are used to determine if oil or natural gas are located beneath the ocean floor.
On Monday January 6th, Lambeth explained, "If we don't get money in here to help fund beach nourishment it will have to come from increased property taxes for citizens and then everyone will be screaming."
He said North Carolina needs to support energy exploration and, "If North Carolina doesn't, then Virginia will do it and drill sideways for it."
Lambeth said, "It will bring monies into the coastal economies and the hope would be that some of those revenues would generate taxes to help fund beach nourishment projects." He said the last nourishment project totaled around $4 million dollars and funding was an obstacle. He said, "We will need a million dollars in the bank the next time to cover our local share of the project."
Following the April 15th, meeting Randy Sturgill, Campaign Organizer at Oceana, explained, "Today, the Kure Beach Town Council failed to adopt a resolution opposing the use of controversial seismic airguns, which are currently being considered to look for oil and gas deposits deep below the ocean floor in an area twice the size of California, stretching from Delaware to Florida."
"We are very disappointed that the Kure Beach town council failed to adopt this important resolution," said Sturgill. "It is clear that Mayor Lambeth and some of his council members are putting Big Oil ahead of their constituents. Councilmember Swearingen has the support of her community, and we applaud her for her leadership—it is clear that Kure Beach residents do not want to turn their coastline into a blast zone."
Council member Swearingen had the resolution opposing seismic testing placed on the agenda for the April 15th, meeting.
Sturgill explained, "According to the Department of the Interior (DOI), these dynamite-like blasts are expected to injure and possibly kill 138,500 marine mammals like dolphins and whales along the East Coast and disturb the necessary activities of millions more. One species of particular concern is the North Atlantic right whale, the rarest large whale species, of which there are only approximately 500 left worldwide."
He explained, "Seismic airgun blasting would threaten the health of ocean ecosystems and the resources they provide to coastal communities like Kure Beach,” Sturgill continued. “In North Carolina alone, the GDP from ocean-based tourism and recreation is approximately $983 million.  Between tourism, recreation, and commercial and recreational fishing, the ocean supports over 56,000 jobs for hard-working North Carolinians.  The Kure Beach town council missed a major opportunity to protect the health of its community and economy today."
Sturgill said following the release of the federal government’s final proposal in late February, six coastal towns have passed local resolutions opposing their use (Cocoa Beach, FL, Carolina Beach, NC, Caswell Beach, NC, Nags Head, NC, Bradley Beach, NJ and Red Bank, NJ.) 110 local elected officials and 155 conservation and animal welfare organizations have joined the mounting opposition against seismic airgun use along the East Coast, with more expected to join the effort in the coming weeks.
Recently, more than 100 scientists called on President Obama and his administration to wait on new acoustic guidelines for marine mammals, which are currently in development by the National Marine Fisheries Service. These guidelines are 15 years in the making and aim to provide a better understanding of how marine mammals are impacted by varying levels of manmade sound as well as demonstrate the measures that are needed to protect them. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and eight additional U.S. Senators  also sent a letter to DOI Secretary Sally Jewell urging her to hold off on issuing this administrative decision until all of the best available science, including these new acoustic guidelines, can be incorporated.
The Carolina Beach Town Council recently adopted a resolution opposing seismic airgun testing at their February 11th meeting. The entire Council attended to the January Kure Beach Council meeting and witnessed the public outcry opposing Mayor Lambeth's letter.
At the April 15th meeting, Mayor Dean Lambeth and Council members Craig Bloszinsky and Steve Pagley voted against a motion by Swearingen to adopt a resolution opposing seismic testing. Swearingen and Councilman David Heglar voted in favor of the resolution.
Commissioner Heglar said he is against seismic testing and voted for the resolution but, "Last month I said we shouldn't be voting on this. I still think we shouldn't be voting on this but since we have now we are going to be in the paper again for yet another stupid thing. I'll tell all of you, I tried to get this off of the agenda because I knew... this is exactly how it was going to go."
One resident said the Council isn't listening to their citizens who they should represent.
Heglar said he had one person call him on the issue.