Last week the Governor Pat McCrory of North Carolina called a closed meeting to discuss drilling plans for the coast off his state. Gov. McCrory is an elected official of the state of N. Carolina, so what he does with their taxpayer’s money is between him and the state’s citizens. But the meeting was also attended by a number of federal (our) employees from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) including the acting director Walter Cruikshank.
Donald van der Vaart, a policy advisor for North Carolina, giving the rationale behind the limited access stated that “The inclusion of special interest groups and industry would allow for the potential of the appearance of influence on the permit application reviews currently underway.” But the guest list – including van der Vaart, was basted in oil. It seems that they didn’t want environmental ‘special interests’ taking interest in the oilmen’s special interests.
The participation of BOEM in this faux pas is particularly egregious because it was less than six years ago that the Minerals Management Service (MMS) was broken up for having drug-dusted panty-parties with the oil men and their gals. It seems to be bred in the bone, and it should not be. MMS under a different name, BOEM – is still way too cozy with the businesses they are charged to regulate.
It is not the policy of OCR to scrap around in political brouhaha, but we have been having policy discussions with BOEM and others since their expedited “Record of Decision” on the Atlantic Geophysical Plan (paving the way for the oilmen to “have their way” with the mid and south Atlantic). As BOEM bashes their way through the thicket of public opposition and regulatory commitments, increasingly it appears that drilling in the US Atlantic is already written in BOEM policy, and that the Environmental Impact Statements and other instruments of public review are perfunctory window dressing.
BOEM’s repeated assurances that “There’s going to be plenty of time for stakeholder involvement, and the process will be done right” does not sound so assuring given how we’ve stumbled into this juncture. Our concerns are manifold: Much of the public concern orbits around the impact of the noise of seismic surveys on marine life and I suspect we’ll be involved in this discussion. Additionally, once oil is found it will be subject to extraction, and while it has not yet entered into the larger public discussion the noise of offshore extraction and processing operations are likely to be much more disruptive than the surveys.
BOEM has been acting pretty sheepish over all of this; they don’t seem to enjoy all of the attention they are getting for serving as handmaidens for Big Oil. All the more reason to shower them with attention, I’d say…