The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is holding an open house in Raleigh Monday afternoon to solicit public feedback on a plan to open up the coast to oil and gas exploration.
U.S. Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke announced a proposal in early January to open up 90 percent of the national outer continental shelf for oil and gas exploration between 2019 and 2024. It also includes selling the largest number of lease sales in U.S. history.
By comparison, the current program puts 94 percent of the outer continental shelf off limits to oil and gas exploration.
Bruce Holsten is a business leader in Wilmington, a former oil miner and founder of the advocacy group Save Our Sea. As a leader of multiple coastal chambers of commerce, he spent years studying the economic prospect of drilling for oil off the coast of North Carolina and said it was clearly a losing proposition, financially and environmentally.
“The benefit does not outweigh the actual proven liabilities and harm that could come from a single accident. Not multiple accidents, a single accident. One accident could destroy the coastline on three or four states,” Holsten said.
Citizens groups and environmentalists are planning to bus at least 300 people from coastal communities to the meeting in Raleigh on Monday. Holsten suspects many people will be coming from the Western part of the state as well.
Secretary Zinke said in January the current plan is a starting point, and the Department of the Interior will use public input to shape the final proposal.
"Just like with mining, not all areas are appropriate for offshore drilling, and we will take that into consideration in the coming weeks," Zinke said. "The important thing is we strike the right balance to protect our coasts and people while still powering America and achieving American Energy Dominance."
Monday’s meeting is one of nearly two dozen happening in states around the nation. It will be the only one in North Carolina and will operate like an open house. People can come and go as they please, share information and ask questions of BOEM agents.
The open house takes place from 3 to 7 p.m. at the Hilton North Raleigh/Midtown.
BOEM is offering a Virtual Meeting Room where participants can visit the same stations available at the open house meetings.