Letters to the Editor

Liz Kazal: Offshore drilling will lead to unavoidable accidents, beach devastation

Regarding the Jan. 28 news article “ Obama proposes drilling in Atlantic”: The Obama administration announced the draft plan for offshore drilling leases in the next five years, and North Carolina is front and center for the Atlantic. Anyone who lives on the coast, visits the coast or just likes the taste of North Carolina seafood should stand up and take notice.

Our coasts are a special place. They attract more than 11 million visitors each year from Corolla to Sunset Beach. Visitors come to see the wild horses, the place where the Wright Brothers first took flight or just to relax and play in the surf with their families. This is what we stand to lose if we allow drilling off of our coasts.

Where I grew up isn’t so different from the sandy shores of the Outer Banks. On the Mississippi Gulf Coast, we had beautiful barrier islands with wildlife like pelicans and dolphins. My grandfather had an old boat and on Saturdays would take us out to Dauphin Island where we would spend our days lying on the beaches, soaking up the sun and taking in the gorgeous views of the Gulf.

In April 2010, the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil disaster spilled 200 million gallons of crude oil into the gulf and killed 11 workers. I remember when months passed, and the oil was still spewing into the gulf. I remember when tar balls began to wash up on the beaches I’d spent my childhood on. There is no doubt in my mind after seeing what the disaster can do to a community that offshore drilling just isn’t worth the risk.

My parents still live on the gulf, and their community, like North Carolina’s coasts, relies on tourism and a thriving fishing industry to support the economy. Five years later, the fishing industry is still reeling from the disaster, and now one of the only reasons for people to visit their shores is to gain employment in the clean-up efforts.

There will be accidents. They are unavoidable. The question is whether our coastlines are worth risking. North Carolina has a choice.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said that the places in the draft plan could change based on public input. They do not want to bring drilling to states that don’t want it. That’s why the coasts of California, Oregon and Florida are off-limits. We have a voice.

I urge my fellow North Carolinians who love our coasts to push back on the plan and urge the Bureau of Ocean and Energy Management to keep out of North Carolina.

Liz Kazal

Environment North Carolina, Raleigh

The length limit was waived to permit a fuller response to the issue.