2/20 Letters: Sen. Tillis, protect our coast.

Five companies have won permission to conduct seismic testing off the East Coast, a big step toward offshore drilling.
Five companies have won permission to conduct seismic testing off the East Coast, a big step toward offshore drilling. TNS

Drilling’s risk

Last week, Sen. Thom Tillis wrote a letter noting the “potential economic benefits coming from offshore energy production” but also noting the economic importance of North Carolina tourism and fishing industries. He requested “more details about specific actions... to safeguard long standing industries in our coastal communities.”

While we appreciate the senator’s newfound interest in how drilling could impact our vital tourism and fishing industries, with all due respect, the information he seeks has been available for quite some time. Coastal tourism in North Carolina supports over 30,000 jobs and generates more than $3 billion in annual revenue. Commercial and recreational fishing in the state support an additional 22,500 jobs and $787 million in revenue each year. Where offshore drilling exists in the U.S, between 2001 to 2015, there were over 700 spills that discharged at least 4.93 million barrels. Drilling is inherently risky, and there is no way to guarantee against spills.

We would be remiss if we did not note that Tillis’ first speech on the Senate floor in 2015 was a call to open up our coast to drilling. This change of heart needs to yield real action. With the Trump administration set to release their outer continental shelf leasing plan, now is the time for serious action.

We hope that Tillis and Congressman Rouzer will stand up for more than the NC municipalities that have passed resolutions opposing offshore drilling and seismic testing. And we hope they will follow the example of the late Congressman Walter Jones, who listened to his constituents instead of powerful special interests.

Ben Cahoon, Mayor, Town of Nags Head

Rett Newton, Mayor, Town of Beaufort

Bob Woodard, Chairman, Dare County Board of Commissioners

Drew Ball, Director, Environment North Carolina

Randy Sturgill, Senior Campaign Organizer, Oceana

Matt Walker, Co-chair, Outer Banks Surfrider Foundation and small business owner

Value-based care

As North Carolina’s oldest and largest organization representing physicians and PAs, we at the North Carolina Medical Society agree with State Treasurer Dale Folwell that the State Health Plan needs to be ‘fixed’ and made solvent. We disagree, however, on how he proposes to fix it. Decades of experience both on the federal and state levels show that tinkering with physician payment has no immediate nor long-term impact on bringing down overall health care costs.

The health care community, including physicians, hospitals and insurance programs like Medicare and Medicaid as well as commercial insurance plans are embracing the value-based approach, in which incentives are aligned to reward physicians whose patients are healthier. Evidence is mounting that value-based policies, make good financial sense. North Carolina’s hospitals join physicians as they work to prevent illness and eliminate unnecessary spending, while also providing important access to health care in many communities across the state. They are part of the solution.

The seemingly simple idea that reducing the cost of health care starts with improving patients’ health makes great intuitive sense, but does requires great change in how physicians practice, in how patients behave and in how policymakers shape the environment to foster such positive financial and health outcomes. We applaud the treasurer for wanting to address this multifaceted problem on behalf of state employees. We hope he takes a forward-looking approach to save taxpayer money and to improve state employee’s health for the long term. We stand ready to help the Treasurer resolve this important issue.

Robert W. Seligson, CEO

North Carolina Medical Society

Remembering Jones

Commentators from across the political spectrum have rightly praised Walter B. Jones, Jr. for his many years representing the citizens of the Third Congressional District. Congressman Jones’ gracious personality, his principled and often courageous stands, at times against his own party, and his photographic memorials to the servicemen killed while on active duty are well-known aspects of the Jones legend.

Especially in today’s fractured political environment, however, it seems important also to remember Congressman Jones for the legislation he sponsored in 1997 (signed into law in 1998) that won overwhelming support from Republicans and Democrats alike. Known familiarly as “The Shackleford Banks Wild Horses Protection Act” (H.R. 765), this legislation saved the Shackleford herd from likely extinction. The law preserved a living legacy of our nation’s past. It will be a proud reminder of the service of a distinguished American.

Carmine Prioli

Chapel Hill

Sheriffs and ICE

After reading the Feb. 15 article “7 NC Mayors:ICE raids have terrorized communities” I am confused. Sheriffs who see nothing wrong with a criminals’ presence but rather see ICE personnel as unwelcome. What a pity these elected officials had their fingers crossed when they were sworn into office.

John Gallant