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From The Brunswick Beacon

"Coastal Residents Rally to Raleigh to Fight Offshore Drilling"

by Laura Lewis 

February 27, 2018

Busloads of coastal residents, including ones from Brunswick County, traveled to the state capital Monday to voice opposition to offshore drilling.


Hundreds of people took part in the Rally to Raleigh at the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s only statewide meeting Feb. 26 at the Hilton North Raleigh Midtown Hotel.

Two buses bearing local residents left Wilmington on Monday afternoon to make the 130-mile trip in time for BOEM’s afternoon informational session, as well as a rally and press event orchestrated by environmental groups opposed to offshore drilling. Other buses chartered by the North Carolina Coastal Federation and 13 other groups traveled west from Morehead City, New Bern and Nags Head.

Brunswick County participants


Dwight Willis, a board member of the Brunswick Environmental Action Team, took part in the Raleigh trip and events along with his wife Becky in response to the Trump Administration’s lifting restrictions last year to prevent offshore drilling off the coast of North Carolina. “We could have gone anyplace in the county to finish out our lives,” said Willis, a retired principal of Supply Elementary School. He said they chose Holden Beach because it’s the “most beautiful, cleanest, nicest, most wonderful experience in the world to live there. The thing that makes Brunswick County one of the fastest growing counties is that ocean.”

Becky Willis said she can’t believe Florida has been exempted from the offshore drilling list. She said the Sunshine State would still be affected if offshore drilling is allowed to proceed off the Carolinas coast. “The only way they can protect tourism is to protect North Carolina tourism,” she said. “If they allow drilling on the East Coast, it’s going to affect everybody. It’s domestic terrorism.”

Former New York residents Alan Warner and Joanne Levitan also took Monday’s Rally to Raleigh bus trip from their home in Leland. They said they don’t want offshore drilling to destroy North Carolina’s beautiful beaches or ruin marine life, the economy or property values. “It’s too much rush for too little benefit,” Warner said.

Bearing and signs and reciting chants like “save our coast!,” rally-goers gathered in and outside the hotel for the duration of the event.

No public comments


Inside a hotel meeting room, BOEM officials as well as officials with the North Carolina Division of Coastal Management met one-on-one with event goers to answer questions and provide information on offshore drilling. Rally attendees were invited to submit comments online only at a row of computers set up on tables. The comment period is scheduled to end March 9. In an adjacent room, a BOEM video explaining offshore drilling played.

Across from the rally room where environmental groups distributed T-shirts and information, the American Petroleum Group staged a low-key reception in a suite marked with a sign next to the door reading, “Keep Exploring North Carolina.” According to North Carolina Policy Watch, the reception was hosted by former lawmaker Thom Goolsby of New Hanover County, described as a “longtime advocate for — and beneficiary of — the energy industry.” Goolsby declined to talk to the media or comment about offshore drilling during what he described as a private event.

Rally speakers


Meanwhile, a dozen speakers approached the podium amid the sign-bearing, chanting rally crowd of hundreds to raise concerns about offshore drilling. “The (Gov. Roy) Cooper administration is proud of you because of your unwavering dedication and objections to offshore drilling,” said Michael S. Regan, secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, drawing cheers as he added, “let it be known that their (offshore drilling) plan is not OK with North Carolina.”

“Tourism is our lifeline,” Kill Devil Hills Mayor Sheila Foster Davies said, drawing applause as she added, “We do not have a fallback industry. Without clean water and beaches, our tourism does not exist.”

State District 18 Rep. Deb Butler of Wilmington was among others who spoke out against offshore drilling. “We all know the ocean, and it belongs to all of us,” she said. “No deal, no drill, not now, not ever. We as climate change believers know there are better sources of energy, not the fossil fuels of the past.”

Laura Lewis is a staff writer for the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or

From The Brunswick Beacon

"Commissioners Delay Coastal Drilling Decision Until March"

by Brian Slattery

February 20, 2018

BOLIVIA — Dozens of opponents to seismic testing and coastal oil drilling converged outside Brunswick County’s David R. Sandifer Administration Building before the Feb. 19 county commissioners’ meeting.

While they protested under a covered walkway to avoid the Monday evening rain, a handful of testing and drilling supporters were the first to sign up to speak during the public comment section of the meeting.

If January’s public comments were stacked with coastal drilling opponents, Monday’s speakers were an even mix of residents on either side of the issue.

Pam Sabalos of Riverbend Drive in Shallotte Point said she was disturbed by claims that people who spoke against the county’s resolution of support for offshore drilling in January were not residents of Brunswick County. So she brought a sign-in sheet including the names and addresses of 80 residents who attended the Feb. 19 meeting. “Eighty Brunswick County residents who are here because we care about our coast,” she said.


Mel Foels of Cloverfield Court in Leland had a different take on drilling opponents. “It seems as though there was a variety of so-called environmentalists here (in January) to pressure you into backing a resolution banning offshore drilling,” Foels said. “This is nothing more than political extortion.”

“I am here to let the Brunswick County commissioners know that I, along with many others that are not here today, support seismic testing,” said Colleen Combs of Shipmast Way in Southport. “If seismic testing finds oil or natural gas, I support offshore drilling. If there are no oil or natural gas resources, there would be no drilling. If seismic testing determines there are oil or natural gas resources off the North Carolina coast, in my opinion, we should develop those resources.”

Ginny Quaglia of Spencer Place in Ocean Isle Beach said she was disappointed in Republican commissioners Frank Williams, Mike Forte and Randy Thompson for taking action to “rescind or neutralize our county’s support for offshore exploration.I hope no further damage will be done in the form of a resolution in opposition to exploration. Denying the opportunity to acquire basic knowledge of our God-given resources for future societal needs is just willful ignorance in my opinion,” said Quaglia, who is involved in commissioner Pat Sykes’ campaign for the state House seat held by Frank Iler of Oak Island in November’s general election.

Pete Key of East Yacht Drive in Oak Island said since facts didn’t sway the opinions of commissioners he quoted Genesis 9, 1-3: “When Noah steps off the boat, what is the first thing God tells him? ‘I have given you dominion over all the Earth. Over all the animals. And I have given you dominion over the green things of the ground. Take care of them,’” Key said. “Drilling for oil and natural gas is not that route.”

Greg Weiss of North Shore Drive in Sunset Beach, who spoke as a member of the Brunswick Environmental Action Team, said, “Part of the mission of BEAT is to assist our county and communities in developing sound and pragmatic environmental policies. We can be environmentally responsible and pragmatic by acknowledging that the future is with renewable energy,” he said.

Dale Todd of North Sleepy Oak Lane in Leland asked commissioners to consider the costs to benefits. “There a potential benefit (to coastal oil drilling). It could be small. It could be big. But it is decades out there. “The cost is the risk that occurs if anything goes wrong — minor things, big things, whatever — to the wetlands and the coast, fishing, tourism, property values,” Todd said. “I hope you do your research. But I hope you come to the conclusion that I have and oppose offshore drilling.”

Tim Page, executive director of the Consumer Energy Alliance, said the “CEA Southeast chapter strongly urges the commission to refrain from adopting a resolution opposing potential exploration and development of offshore energy. In addition to needlessly making it more difficult for North Carolinians to access affordable energy, shutting the door on opportunities to better understand the extent of our offshore energy resource through new studies and to access those resources in the future would prematurely foreclose up to tens of thousands of living-wage jobs and billions of dollars in economic activity and revenue that North Carolinians desperately want and need,” Page said.

Commissioners were expected to decide at the meeting whether to formally rescind their support for seismic testing and offshore oil drilling off the Atlantic coast. On Jan. 16, they reversed a July 6, 2015, county resolution that endorsed state and federal government steps to allow for offshore oil and natural gas development along the Atlantic coast. Thompson, Forte and Williams outvoted Sykes and Marty Cooke to take a neutral position while they review the latest information on the impact of seismic testing and offshore drilling. Thompson made a motion during that meeting asking for 30 days to review the issue and then take up the discussion again at Monday’s meeting.

After the public comments period ended Monday night, it didn’t appear the commissioners would discuss the issue. An oil drilling resolution was not an item on the meeting agenda. But Thompson brought it up as the last discussion item of the meeting. He requested staff add a resolution discussion to the March 19 meeting agenda. “Earlier today I shared with the county manager (Ann Hardy) a resolution to oppose offshore drilling and seismic testing,” he said. “I’d like the staff including the county attorney (Bob Shaver) to review that resolution and bring it back to us for consideration at our next meeting in March. “I just wanted to share that with everybody so staff would have an opportunity to get the resolution back to us, after review, so we could have ample time to study it and respond to it at our next meeting.” Thompson and Hardy clarified the resolution would be on the agenda of the second county board meeting of the month.


“I guess that’s something that one commissioner can put on the agenda. I know there are some folks on this board who would prefer that it not be, who said it wasn’t appropriate procedure. I guess we put it on the agenda and then decide if we take it off at that meeting?” Williams said, addressing his question to Shaver. Shaver said that was the correct procedure.

“Can we vote tonight?” Sykes asked.


“I’d like for you to have the opportunity to study what it says and see if you concur,” Thompson said.


“I don’t want to do any resolution. Period,” Sykes said.


Shaver reiterated the resolution can be added to the March 19 agenda. Then the board will have the opportunity to decide to remove it from the agenda or vote on it as an agenda item. After Monday’s meeting, Williams said the January resolution was just a motion to rescind the support for seismic testing and oil drilling but not to bring up the resolution on the February agenda. Thompson said the 30 days were to review the issue and prepare a resolution that the board members could then take up. “Rescind and give everybody a chance to study. Now I’ve actually come up with the document that I would like to see us support,” he added.

Reversing the county’s July 6, 2015, resolution leaves Carteret County, N.C., as the only county board of commissioners along the entire East Coast to endorse state and federal government steps to allow for offshore oil and natural gas development along the Atlantic coast.

Brian Slattery is a staff writer for the Beacon. Reach him at 754-6890 or

From The Wilmington Star-News

"Brunswick Revokes Previous Stance on Offshore Drilling"

by Adam Wagner

January 17, 2018

Narrow vote means the county does not support or oppose offshore drilling, at least for now.


BRUNSWICK COUNTY -- In a surprise vote Tuesday, Brunswick County voted by the slimmest possible margin to walk back its support for offshore drilling and seismic testing. Frank Williams, the board’s chair, cast the deciding vote to rescind the board’s 2015 pro-drilling resolution, joining commissioners Mike Forte and Randy Thompson. Marty Cooke and Pat Sykes voted to keep the previous position in place.

Brunswick’s decision leaves Carteret County as the only governmental body in coastal North Carolina to support offshore exploration, while more than 30 local governments -- including nine in Brunswick County and most of the governments in neighboring New Hanover County -- have passed resolutions in opposition.

Williams, who cited business interests in recusing himself from both the original 2015 vote and then a failed effort to rescind that resolution later in the summer, said he was casting his vote Tuesday 

“largely because, as someone pointed out, our beach towns, our governments, our other elected officials have weighed in.”

After expressing his support for Thompson’s motion, Williams also said he would soon write a letter to the federal government calling on them to hold a public hearing on the five-year plan in Brunswick County. The only hearing presently scheduled in North Carolina is in Raleigh. The Brunswick board will take 30 days to review information about offshore drilling and seismic testing before possibly voting on another offshore drilling resolution.

More than 200 people attended the board’s meeting, many of them clad in the baby blue shirts of the Brunswick Environmental Action Team (BEAT) or the navy blue shirts of Oceana. Protect Our Coast signs lined the roads leading to the David R. Sandifer Administration Building, where the board gathers.


After the meeting, Dwight Willis, a board member of the Brunswick Environmental Action Team, said, “It’s not a complete win. .... But it’s going to be hard for them to go back to a pro-drilling stance.”

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper and the N.C. Department of Envronmental Quality have expressed strong opposition to offshore exploration, particularly in light of a draft plan released earlier this month that would open the North Carolina coast to drilling and seismic testing between 2019 and 2024. Many of the 10 speakers during Tuesday’s public comment period referenced offshore drilling and seismic testing’s potential impacts to the county’s existing fishing and tourism economies.

“I find it shocking that the commissioners voted two years ago to support it, especially because of the industries there are here in the county,” said Dr. Kristen Colleran, a veterinarian who lives in Ocean Isle Beach.

Other speakers pointed to the opposition by other governments in the county, saying they were proof of significant opposition and that commissioners who represented those citizens should also vote against offshore exploration. “We are asking you to vote tonight. Do not abstain. Give us an answer. When four out of five communities in your district are against it, you can’t say you’re for it,” said Peter Key, a board member of BEAT and Oak Island realtor.

After the public spoke, the commissioners weighed in, led by Thompson, who pointed to the Military Ocean Terminal Sunny Point and the nearby Brunswick Nuclear Plant as existing possibly risky industries in the county. He then made his motion, drawing applause from much of the crowd.

Forte followed, saying, “For lack of a better term, don’t screw with our beaches.”

Sykes, who pushed the board in 2015 to reverse its pro-drilling stance and return to neutral, then announced she would vote to keep the existing resolution intact. “Just like flying an airplane, accidents happen (with drilling),” she said, later adding, ”(A resolution) is just a piece of paper that won’t be considered.”

Cooke, who pushed strongly for the 2015 resolution, pointed to his realty business and solar panel farms owned by his family as proof that he is serious about the environment. “I don’t think it’s going to be as big an issue as some people are saying. ... I don’t think the sky is going to fall and if I did, I’d be the first person to have one of those (Don’t Drill N.C.) placards on my car,” Cooke said.

Reporter Adam Wagner can be reached at 910-343-2389 or


From WECT News

"Brunswick Environmental Action Team's

Rally Against Offshore Drilling" January 16, 2018

From WWAY News

"Brunswick County Commission Rescinds Resolution Supporting Offshore Drilling." 1/17/2018

by WWAY News drilling/

From the Wilmington Star-News Online

"Brunswick Revokes Previous Stance on Offshore Drilling"

by Adam Wagner, GateHouse Media   1/17/2018

BRUNSWICK COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — In a surprise move, Brunswick County commissioners tonight voted to reverse course and rescind a resolution adopted more than two years ago that supported offshore drilling.


Back in July 2015, commissioners approved a resolution supporting offshore drilling and seismic testing in the Atlantic. A month later they reconsidered the resolution, but a 2-2 vote, with Commissioner Frank Williams recusing himself from the vote, kept the resolution in place.


Last summer opponents of offshore energy exploration rallied in Brunswick County to encourage a reversal. Brunswick was one of two counties in the state that had expressed support for offshore drilling.


Commissioners were greeted by another protest before tonight’s meeting in Bolivia with one member of the board telling WWAY this afternoon that no action would be taken. In the end, though, the five Republican commissioners surprised even themselves by voting 3-2 to back off the 2015 resolution. Williams, Randy Thompson and Mike Forte voted in favor of rescinding it. Marty Cooke and Pat Sykes voted against.


The move comes two weeks after the Trump administration announced plans to expand oil and gas exploration along the Atlantic coast. Many coastal leaders have expressed concern with potential impacts on tourism and other industries. The federal government granted Florida an exemption from drilling. That led the governors of North Carolina and South Carolina to also declare their preference to be left out of the plan.

From The Brunswick Beacon 
"BEAT Looks Back on First Year, Forward to 2018"  
by Laura Lewis   1/4/2018

In just a matter of months since it was formed, the Brunswick Environmental Action Team has snowballed in membership, activities and what its president deems plenty of progress during 2017.


The nonprofit countywide environmental group launched last April with a capacity crowd of 30 showing up for an initial meeting at Hickmans Crossroads Library.

Participants coming from as far as Leland, Southport and Oak Island introduced themselves and spoke about environmental concerns the fledgling group hoped to address.

Participants gave varied reasons for their interest in the group, including “there’s more to life than golf.”

Group chairman Dr. Richard Hilderman, a retired chairman of Clemson University’s genetics and biochemistry department and former director of Clemson’s Genomics Institute, marveled over the turnout. He previously led the town-appointed Sunset Beach Environmental Resource Committee (ERC). One week prior to that initial BEAT gathering, on April 19 he and ERC’s four other members resigned after Sunset Beach Town Council took action banning them from talking about dredging issues on the Sunset Beach island.

Looking back

Eight months later, BEAT president Neil Gilbert, also a former ERC member, took an end-of-year look back at BEAT’s accomplishments, citing an “amazing list of educational presentations and varying levels of activism that BEAT took part in in 2017.”

He credited “passionate members” for that, outlining a timeline dating back to March 25 with announcement of Brunswick County’s new environmental group that has grown from five members to a current roster of 423.

From that first public meeting in April, BEAT’s Facebook page mushroomed from 12 members to 364. Its board likewise grew from three members from Sunset Beach to 11 hailing from eight towns “from all corners of Brunswick County.”

Gilbert listed BEAT’s activities and accomplishments so far.

   • In June and July, BEAT sponsored two separate showings of the award-winning film “Sonic Sea” at Brunswick Community College and in Leland.

   • On July 17, members took part in a rally in Sunset Beach Town Park to protest offshore drilling and seismic blasting.

   • By special invitation, BEAT members participated in a three-day weekend with Greenpeace in October, including a private reception aboard the Arctic Sunrise in Wilmington and a “Kayaktivism” event in Wrightsville Beach.

   • Also in October, members attended by special invitation a debate between Jean-Michel Cousteau and Shell Oil at Cape Fear Community College.

   • On Nov. 15, BEAT members traveled to Washington, D.C., to lobby United States legislators on behalf of the Marine Mammal Protection Program.

   • On Dec. 18, BEAT presented “An Evening with UNCW’s Dr. Lawrence Cahoon” to learn more about the dangers of GenX in the local water supply.

With the assistance and expertise of some of its members, BEAT created a new website,, and won a $2,500 grant.

BEAT also participated in assorted community events in the past year including Women’s Equality Day in Southport, Sunset at Sunset in Sunset Beach and Blue Extravaganza in Bolivia.

Some BEAT members spoke to the Brunswick County Board of Education about safe drinking water for students, to Brunswick County commissioners about safe alternative energy and solar farms and to Sunset Beach Town Council about joining the Mayors Climate Accord.

Gilbert said BEAT issued three position statements last year addressing concerns about GenX, the dredging of naturally occurring waterways like Jinks Creek in Sunset Beach and shifting from nonrenewable “dirty” sources of energy to renewable “clean” sources.

“While this is an impressive list for any group, BEAT is just beginning,” Gilbert wrote in a Dec. 27 email to members. “Please stay tuned for a mailing announcing our plans for 2018.”

He thanked BEAT members and “all of the people in Brunswick County who are passionate about protecting our environment.

“We had many successes in 2017, but we have a lot more work to do in 2018,” Gilbert wrote. “It will be a great day when BEAT will no longer be needed to Stand Up and Speak Out for our environment.”

New Year plans

Gilbert told the Beacon that BEAT already has four things planned in the New Year, starting this past Tuesday, Jan. 2, with members signing up for various committees.

“There are just too many environmental issues in Brunswick County for the board to tackle on our own, plus this will be a way to get our members more involved,” Gilbert said.

Other upcoming BEAT events include having Peg Howell of Stop Offshore Drilling in the Atlantic (SODA) address members at their Feb. 19 meeting.

Gilbert noted Howell is a fascinating speaker, as well as the first woman to work on an offshore oil platform.

In March, Hilderman will give a presentation on “Climate Change and Sea Level Rise.”

And June 16, BEAT is scheduled to participate in a “Rockin’ Democracy” event at Sunset Beach Town Park.

“As you can see we are not slowing down,” Gilbert said.

Laura Lewis is a staff writer for the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or

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