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Nags Head Mayor Fights Offshore Drilling

Reprinted from the Outer Banks Voice

Nags Head Mayor Ben Cahoon is among around 30 leaders from 13 coastal states heading to Washington, D.C., this week to urge lawmakers on Capitol Hill to maintain offshore drilling protections passed this summer by the House of Representatives.

The effort, coordinated by the conservation organization Oceana, comes as Congress prepares to hammer out details of the 2020 Fiscal Year spending plan. And it’s another chapter in a longstanding battle over offshore drilling that was re-ignited in early 2017 when newly elected President Donald Trump signed an executive order restarting the process of opening the Atlantic, and other waters, to offshore energy exploration.

The protections include two amendments to the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies funding bill that would block offshore drilling expansion during Fiscal Year 2020 in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, along with the eastern Gulf of Mexico. A third amendment would block funding for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to issue permits for seismic air gun blasting in the Atlantic Ocean. The goal of the coastal delegation is to lobby lawmakers to protect those amendments as they wind their way through the federal budget process.

“We’re here to send a message to protect those provisions as they go through [the budget process],” Cahoon said during a Nov. 12 interview. “This is the message of Nags Head. Offshore drilling is bad for us … we have a wonderful economy that supports the community and protects the environment.”

Cahoon and others in the delegation, which includes business leaders, conservation advocates and local and state elected officials, are scheduled to meet with lawmakers Wednesday and Thursday in anticipation of upcoming federal budget negotiations. The federal budget year begins Oct. 1, however Congress passed a continuing resolution in September that was signed by Trump to fund the government through Nov. 21.

The delegation’s visit also comes after a federal judge’s ruling this spring that shut down the Trump Administration’s plans to lift a ban on oil and gas drilling in the Arctic. The ruling caused Trump officials to sideline, at least temporarily, larger plans to expand drilling off the nation’s coasts.

Cahoon is joined on Capitol Hill by two other North Carolina officials – Beaufort Mayor Rett Newton and Carteret County Chamber of Commerce President Tom Kies, who also serves as president of the Business Alliance for Protecting the Atlantic Coast.

Cahoon said the group would be meeting with Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., and also hoped to meet with Rep. Greg Murphy, R-N.C., who recently won the special election to succeed the late Walter Jones Jr. and who represents the Outer Banks.

“It’s a priority for me to meet (Murphy) and bring him the message that the Outer Banks is unified in opposition to offshore drilling,” said Cahoon.

An outspoken opponent of offshore drilling, Cahoon co-hosted a Mayoral Roundtable to Protect Our North Carolina Coast in May in which nearly a dozen mayors attended to show solidarity in their opposition.

At the event, North Carolina Secretary of the Department of Environment Quality Michael Regan cautioned those at the meeting not to let their guard down when it came to the campaign against offshore drilling. “We have to remain vigilant in opposition to the drilling off our coast and we have to be prepared to protect our communities,” he said.

In a Nov. 12 press release, Oceana also emphasized that the battle is far from over.

“For decades, Congress upheld offshore drilling moratoriums through the Interior-Environment funding bill,” the release stated. “While the Trump administration delayed plans to expand offshore drilling to new areas, the January 2018 proposal to open over 90 percent of federal waters to offshore drilling remains on the table.”

In a related matter, another Dare County mayor was traveling last week as part of an effort to oppose offshore drilling. Outgoing Kill Devil Hills Mayor Sheila Davies was invited to Nova Scotia by the Council of Canadians to speak about the town’s and county’s fight to oppose offshore drilling. That group, along with Nova Scotia Offshore Alliance, announced that a dozen municipal governments there were requesting an inquiry into offshore drilling along with a moratorium.

This story is provided courtesy of the Outer Banks Voice, a digital newspaper covering the Outer Banks. Coastal Review Online is partnering with the Voice to provide readers with more environmental and lifestyle stories of interest about our coast.

About the Author

Michelle Wagner

Michelle Wagner is a writer for the "Outer Banks Voice."