An organization representing coastal businesses and commercial fishing families is urging the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to extend the public comment period on the president’s new plan for offshore oil and gas leasing and add more opportunities for coastal residents to speak out.
Frank Knapp Jr., president of the Business Alliance for Protecting the Atlantic Coast, or BAPAC, made the requests in a letter dated Jan. 15 to BOEM Acting Director Walter Cruickshank.
In the letter, Knapp seeks an extension of the 60-day, March 8, 2018 deadline to submit comments on the Draft Proposed Program, or DPP, for the Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2019-2024. The group seeks an extension of several months.
“Given the large scope of the DPP and the enormous public interest, we believe a 60-day extension of the deadline for comments is necessary to allow for more public hearings in the areas included in the DPP,” Knapp states in the letter.
The group also requested that BOEM add more communities, especially coastal locations, to the list of sites selected for public hearings on the program. A series of 23 “open house” public meetings have been scheduled on the draft plan. The only one in North Carolina is set for 3-7 p.m. Feb. 26 at the Hilton North Raleigh/Midtown, 3415 Wake Forest Road, Raleigh. BAPAC is calling for additional meetings, including added locations of Wilmington, Morehead City, Chapel Hill, Greensboro and Asheville, as well as additional sites in other East Coast states.
“This would give the opportunity to the public that would be most directly impacted to provide input on the DPP. This is critical for this process to be considered fair given the new, large scope of the DPP and its potential impacts on coastal communities and economies, the marine environment, and climate,” according to the letter.
In addition to the open house format, the group seeks formal oral testimony “as a better way to ensure that people’s concerns are heard and recorded publicly.”
The group also requests that all Atlantic Coast states receive the exemption from being included in a new five-year plan as recently granted to Florida.
“Clearly, every one of these states has an economy that is driven by tourism tied to their coasts. Each one of the states has its own unique coast that provides a vibrant tourism, commercial fishing and recreation economy that is incompatible with offshore drilling for oil with its inevitable leaks and spills,” according to the letter.