Chants of “More film, less frack” and “Take pride in a clean tide” could be heard as about a hundred protesters looped around the Hanover Street cul-de-sac beside the Wilmington Convention Center on Oct. 9, where Gov. Pat McCrory was preparing to speak about offshore energy exploration at the 2014 Coastal Energy Summit.
Wilmywood Daily blogger Sheila Brothers was one organizer behind the rally. A handful of groups, including the film industry, local education supporters, the Stop Titan Action Network and the University of North Carolina Wilmington Environmental Concerns Organization (ECO), joined forces over shared support for clean industry in Wilmington.
Brothers is upset that state lawmakers opened the door for oil and gas exploration while allowing the 25 percent tax credit that sustains the state’s vibrant film industry sunset at the end of the year. She said it made sense to collaborate with other groups that want well-paying jobs that come without environmental consequences.
“The film industry is one of the cleanest industries,” Brothers said. “They’re for clean jobs. We’re for clean jobs.”
Mike Giles, N.C. Coastal Federation coastal advocate, said he saw the rally as an opportunity to convey a message to McCrory.
“The governor has not reached out to the environmental community down here, as far as we know. His coming down here to talk about offshore energy is fine. It’s a good discussion to have. … But without discussion on the local level, we don’t want these dirty jobs for our community,” Giles said.
Giles sees film as a better opportunity for the coast.
“Why would we chase away jobs that have been providing a lot of people with income, a great place to live with a vibrant economy? Why would we chase those jobs out of town, which the governor and others call only temporary, for dirty jobs to drill offshore?” Giles said.
Matthew Duffy, ECO president and environmental studies major at UNCW, said he was grateful for the perspective film supporters brought to the rally.
“I like that they’re protesting on the point that film is a clean industry, and McCrory’s trying to gut that while bringing oil to our coastline, which doesn’t make sense,” Duffy said.
ECO originally planned a demonstration on campus about the impacts of seismic blast testing for offshore oil the same day, but after learning about the rally and expected attendees, the group switched locations.
Duffy stressed that his goal was to protest the potentially devastating impact of oil exploration off North Carolina’s coast, not the summit, which included representatives from sustainable offshore energy sources.
“We’re not rallying against the summit, or against the governor. We just want people, especially our governor, to see that a large population of people in Wilmington don’t support offshore drilling and the oil industry bringing seismic testing to our coast,” Duffy said.
The Coastal Energy Summit was organized by the Greater Wilmington Business Journal.