My Venture into Foiling Big Oil

Just a few short months ago I knew next to nothing about the proposed offshore oil development off the Atlantic coast. While it would’ve sounded like a step in the wrong direction for energy development, I had little proximity to the reality of the situation and reasons that you, hey there, reading this blog should also be opposed. Now though I could talk your ear off on all the different layers and complexities to the situation and frequently corral my fellow classmates into hearing my two cents.

The organization to thank for this change is the North Carolina Coastal Federation, a non-profit organization here in Manteo that I have been fortunate enough to intern with this semester. NCCF has three offices along the coast and three main focuses: preservation and restoration, education, and advocacy. My mentor, Ladd Bayliss, is the Coastal Federation’s lead on their goal of stopping offshore oil. A native of Manns Harbor and knowledgeable of seemingly all things about the area, Ladd’s cheerful and determined personality has allowed us to work well together on a sometimes hopeless seeming fight.

My work on the issue has ranged from compiling important information for a fact sheet to planning a movie screening on the BP oil spill.

Just recently I assisted Ladd in developing the offshore oil work plan for the next year. In January the federal government will release their Proposed Program for 2017-2022 and this will determine the next steps for NCCF depending on if the Atlantic Ocean is still included as a lease area. The big question we are figuring out together is the best way to engage people in the issue and sway public opinion. If drilling is allowed off the coast of North Carolina then everyone here in the Outer Banks will be affected, but not everyone realizes their personal stake in the matter.

Another aspect of the offshore oil issue that I have learned about is the seismic surveying that would occur before actual drilling. Seismic surveys send loud blasts of sound miles deep into the ocean to map the ocean floor and determine the location of oil and gas reserves. If seismic surveying occurred in the Atlantic it would have detrimental affects on marine mammals’ ability to communicate and could harm fish populations in an area dependent on the fishing industry.

Currently, Ladd and I are working especially on ways to foster opposition within the commercial fishing community by comparing fishing regulations to the proposed regulations on the seismic surveyors.

Interning with the Coastal Federation has helped me tremendously in determining where I’d like to go from here and how I’d like to work on environmental issues. Going into this semester all I knew was that I wanted to gain an insight into the non-profit perspective and gain experience working with the public on issues. Now I have a deep appreciation for community-involved environmental advocacy. To progress to better environmental management I have learned it is essential to understand the area where you are and the people who make it what it is in order to find a common ground and a common voice.