Kure Beach council votes to oppose offshore drilling, seismic testing

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Emilie Swearingen addresses citizens after Kure Beach Town Council unanimously adopted a resolution opposing offshore drilling and seismic testing.

Jan. 19, Kure Beach became the 100th municipality to adopt a resolution opposing offshore drilling and seismic air gun testing after a unanimous vote by the Kure Beach Town Council.

“Some things are too precious for money to buy,” newly elected Mayor Emilie Swearingen told more than 50 citizens — many of whom were wearing blue and representing environmental advocacy groups Oceana, Surfrider Foundation and the Sierra Club — who packed into the council chambers. “Our marine life means so much to us, as does our environment, our economy, our tourists, but most of all, our quality of life. That’s why most of us live here and many of the rest of you visit us.”

The council’s vote drew a standing ovation from the public, although several were already standing because there were not enough seats to accommodate the crowd. Their reaction was a stark contrast to a similar scene two years earlier when then-Mayor Dean Lambeth signed a letter that endorsed seismic testing.

During that January 2014 council meeting, hundreds of protestors gathered at Kure Beach town hall, so many that the council chambers’ window blinds were opened so those who couldn’t fit inside could watch from outside. Fifty residents spoke during the public hearing — 48 against offshore drilling and two in favor — but the council ultimately voted 3-2 against formally opposing offshore drilling.

Kure Beach resident and Carolina Beach business owner Mo Linquist spoke during that meeting, voicing concerns about how an oil spill would devastate her business. Lambeth was to blame for the council’s stance at the time, she said.

“The town council ignored the people,” she said. “Primarily it was because of the previous mayor.”

Kure Beach residents made their opinion of Lambeth’s actions clear during the November 2015 municipal election. He was defeated by Swearingen, one of the Kure Beach councilmembers opposed to offshore drilling.

“It just goes to show, the citizens have power,” Kure Beach resident Dr. Kyle Horton said. “We can really protect our people and protect our way of life.”

Horton, a local physician, said she is against offshore drilling “as a public health advocate who cares about climate change and our dirty fossil fuel addiction in our country.”

But her opposition is also personal.

A member of her extended family was one of 11 people killed when the oilrig Deepwater Horizon exploded in the Gulf of Mexico.

“The unsafe practice of drilling really is not right  for our town,” she said.

Lambeth’s vocal support of offshore drilling, while frustrating to Kure Beach’s residents, actually made Kure Beach “ground zero for opposition to seismic testing and offshore oil,” Swearingen said.

It also served as “a catalyst for a nationwide movement” and prompted dozens of other municipalities from Delaware to Florida to adopt resolutions opposing drilling, Oceana senior campaign organizer Randy Sturgill said.

Two years later, Kure Beach’s residents cheered as its council, under new leadership, not only opposed offshore drilling, but did so unanimously.

“I am so overjoyed,” Linquist said. “I am just in heaven!”

email emmy@luminanews.com

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