- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 28, 2014

KURE BEACH, N.C. (AP) - Hundreds of people at a beach town in southeastern North Carolina are upset with the mayor’s decision to support seismic testing for oil and gas off the coast.

Most of those who crowded the Kure Beach Town Hall on Monday night complained about Mayor Dean Lambeth’s letter.

Lambeth signed a letter last month written by America’s Energy Forum, a lobbying group backed by the American Petroleum Institute.

The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is considering a proposal to use air guns to determine whether oil and gas deposits are located beneath the ocean floor off the Atlantic.

Conservationists worry the testing would disrupt migrating North Atlantic right whales, loggerhead sea turtles and other species.

“We never know what the ecosystem impacts are with something like this until it’s too late,” said Brady Bradshaw, campaign coordinator for Echo Friendly Action.

Some residents complained Lambeth signed the letter without getting public input.

Lambeth did not address the meeting.

He previously said his main reason for signing the letter was the potential that seismic testing leases could generate revenue to help the town fund future beach nourishment projects.

But a representative from the American Petroleum Institute said profits would only be generated for the town if seismic testing lead to offshore drilling.

“I never claimed that seismic testing actually gives money,” said Albert Eckel, speaking on behalf of the lobbying group.