Impact Story 18: Oceana – A Victorious Year Against Offshore Drilling Thanks to a Grassroots Movement

Posted April 18, 2017

Three years ago, Oceana, the international organization focused on restoring the resilience, diversity and abundance of marine ecosystems, planted the seeds of a grassroots movement that would spread across the Atlantic Coast. In 2014, the mayor of Kure Beach, North Carolina, home to the oldest fishing pier on the Atlantic coast, surreptitiously penned a letter to the federal government in support of seismic airgun blasting – an extremely loud and dangerous process used to search for oil and gas deposits deep below the ocean’s surface that is harmful to coastal communities and marine life. Residents, catching wind of their mayor’s action, were outraged. With the helping hand of Oceana, more than 300 citizens showed up at the next town meeting to defend their beloved coast from fossil fuel extraction.

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Local pushback to drilling and exploration has flourished into a groundswell of opposition that includes over 120 East Coast municipalities, more than 1,200 elected officials, and an alliance representing over 35,00 businesses and 500,000 commercial fishing families. Here a coastal community joins hands in solidarity against offshore drilling. Photo: Oceana.

What followed next was collaborative action among coastal communities, facilitated by Oceana and funded by committed partners such as The Orton Foundation, Louis Bacon‘s Moore Charitable affiliate, that engaged residents, business leaders, lawmakers and elected officials in North Carolina to oppose offshore drilling and seismic airgun blasting. Local pushback to drilling and exploration flourished into a groundswell of opposition, including more than 120 East Coast municipalities, 1,200 elected officials, and an alliance representing over 35,00 businesses and 500,000 commercial fishing families.

Lumina News photo by Katie Dickens. Volunteers from Oceana plus Surfrider Foundation and Environment North Carolina toured area Atlantic beaches to garner more public opposition to seismic blasting and testing off the east coast.

Lumina News photo by Katie Dickens. Volunteers from Oceana plus Surfrider Foundation and Environment North Carolina toured area Atlantic beaches to garner more public opposition to seismic blasting and testing off the east coast.

All this to great success: In March, 2016, the mass of opposition to offshore drilling in the Atlantic resulted in President Obama’s historic move of imposing a five-year moratorium on drilling in the Atlantic. Ever keeping its eye on the prize, Oceana continues the pressure against seismic airgun blasting with increasing opposition in East Coast states. The Business Alliance for Protecting the Atlantic Coast (BAPAC) formed to oppose seismic airgun blasting and offshore oil drilling and to promote responsible stewardship of coastal and ocean waters. Business owners clearly wanted to protect the 1.4 million jobs and $95 billion that marine resources in a healthy Atlantic Ocean generate each year. We celebrated victory at the beginning of the year: on January 6, 2017 the Obama administration formally denied all pending permits to conduct seismic airgun blasting in the Atlantic Ocean.

Now we continue to support Oceana and other partners as they defend the former administration’s decisions and our coasts in a chaotic political climate.

Read a blog post from Oceana’s former Campaign Director for Climate and Energy about the anti-drilling grassroots movement.