WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH, N.C. (WECT) - Inside the Blockade Runner hotel, environmental advocates looked out on the Atlantic Ocean Wednesday morning, and pondered the risks it faces if off-shore drilling becomes a reality.
Environment North Carolina released a new report detailing the risks associated with drilling — but this time focused on the risks on shore, rather than in open water.
“The onshore infrastructure that’s required is just one of those things that people don’t always think about when they think about the facts of offshore drilling,” organizer Jean-Luc Duvall said.
The report, which was written by representatives from Environment America Research & Policy Center and Frontier Group, and reviewed by the Center for Biological Diversity and others, looks at that infrastructure, which includes pipelines, refineries, storage tanks and waste management centers, among others.
Those items, Duvall said, pose an additional environmental risk on top of what has been discussed thus far, such as the effect of seismic testing on marine life, or ruptures at drill sites.
The construction of pipelines can disrupt vulnerable habitats and ecosystems, and there can be major oil spills if those lines rupture.
Tanks and other storage facilities are vulnerable to natural disasters like hurricanes as well.
Duvall showed images from the Associated Press of an oil storage area in the Bahamas that was severely damaged during Hurricane Dorian, causing a localized oil spill on the island.
Beyond the ecological concerns, Duvall said the tourism industry and quality of life of coastal residents would be affected.
“When people think about this issue, they think these rigs will not be on the sightline when they look out at the ocean, but the fact of the matter is the pipelines required for this infrastructure will disrupt natural habitats as well as the beaches and will have a visible impact on our coastal communities,” he said.
State Representative Deb Butler (D-New Hanover/Brunswick) said the risk to the local economy is significant.
“Our way of life here in North Carolina, especially coastal North Carolina, is tied to that beautiful ocean out there. Our economy is just driven by it. Nine, I think, billion dollars per year at a minimum. 57,000 jobs. There’s too much to risk for one drop of oil to ever land on our shores,” Butler said.
Butler added she believes the efforts going into exploring off-shore drilling should be re-directed toward renewable energy sources like solar, wind and wave harnessing technologies.
“It’s just too risky a business. We need to be thinking toward the future, and renewable energy sources. We don’t need to be looking in the rear-view mirror for what’s past. Fossil fuel’s are not the future of North Carolina or anywhere else.”
Other North Carolina politicians have been supportive of the offshore drilling initiative, including Congressman David Rouzer and Senators Thom Tillis and Richard Burr.
They argue there have been “rapid” technological and safety improvements in the drilling industry, and that if the effort is not pursued, the United States would be foregoing economic opportunity when it comes to oil.
Rouzer’s support of drilling came up frequently during comments at Environment NC’s presentation Wednesday. WECT reached out tot he congressman’s office for comment, but as of publication had not heard back.