'Rally for the Ocean' sparks activism, hope for change in county - WECT TV6-WECT.com:News, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

'Rally for the Ocean' sparks activism, hope for change in county's oil drilling stance

The 'Rally for the Ocean' participants oppose offshore drilling on the North Carolina coast. (Source: WECT) The 'Rally for the Ocean' participants oppose offshore drilling on the North Carolina coast. (Source: WECT)

A group of coastline advocates and political leaders rallied to oppose offshore oil drilling in Sunset Beach Monday morning.

"Resolutions up and down the coast in opposition are being seen more and more," State House Representative Deb Butler said. "I'm sure it is going to work its way to the state house. I'm not optimistic when it gets there, so that's why I think we need to combat."

In April, President Trump ordered the U.S. Department of Interior to review areas of the Atlantic for offshore drilling. The Obama administration had previously removed these areas, including the North Carolina coast, from consideration in 2016.

Sunset Beach town council passed a resolution against offshore drilling in June.

"We are doing our part. We want the county to do their part," Councilman Rich Cerratto said.

Brunswick County commissioners voted to pass a resolution in support of offshore drilling in 2015. There is only one other county in North Carolina with a similar resolution.

Commissioner Mike Forte was not in office when the resolution passed. He delivered a message to the crowd in Sunset Beach Monday, saying he opposes offshore drilling.

There is hope Forte will work to get rid of the current resolution and replace it with a resolution in opposition.

"I really want to make this fight opposing offshore drilling personal for people," Dr. Kyle Horton, who plans to run for the U.S. Congressional seat held by Representative David Rouzer, said

Horton said her relative was one of 11 workers killed in the Deepwater Horizon oil explosion in 2010. Horton promises, if elected, to crack down on oil companies.

"We would not be issuing any permits for the seismic air gun blasting process," Horton explained. "We would not issue any permits at the federal level for offshore drilling in the Atlantic."

Advocates of offshore drilling argue the practice adds jobs and makes a positive impact on the economy. Opponents, like Butler, say drilling hurts the economy more than it helps.

"We know where our bread is buttered in eastern North Carolina. It's in our coast, in our tourism based economy," Butler said. "I have a great reverence for the ocean. I think anybody that lives here does. It is too precious a resource to put in jeopardy and I for one will not stand idly by."

Petitions asking lawmakers, including Brunswick County commissioners, to oppose offshore drilling were passed around the crowd.

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