Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling wants answers about effects of offshore drilling

Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling wants answers about effects of offshore drilling

Hilton Head Island Packet
December 23, 2015

By Stephen Fastenau

Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling has asked the federal government how much oil and gas it thinks is in the Atlantic and what processes will be used if the resources are found.

The requests are part of the city’s ongoing campaign to oppose seismic testing and offshore drilling.

The Department of Interior announced this year a five-year plan to lease federal waters from Virginia to Georgia to companies to drill for oil and gas. The program would operate from 2017 until 2022.

Keyserling and other community leaders up and down the coast have opposed the plan for its potential effect on ecosystems and tourists economies.

“I know you can count on the unanimous support of SC coastal mayors and councils as we remain adamant and unified in our fight to stop all proposed seismic testing and drilling off of our pristine coast,” Keyserling wrote in a letter to Bureau of Ocean Energy Management director Abigail Hopper this month.

In a letter, Keyserling cited federal regulations to argue Beaufort was an affected local government and entitled to reports detailing the information he requested.

Under the regulations, he asked for:

  • Estimates of oil and gas reserves and the projected amount of gas and oil expected to be produced from the leased areas.
  • How the resources would be transported
  • The location of any near-shore or onshore facilities used during the process

Beaufort is also contesting a S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control determination that a permit application from Spectrum Geo to begin seismic testing is consistent with the state’s Coastal Zone Management Program. The city has asked for a hearing on the decision in S.C. Administrative Law Court.

Keyserling said testing and drilling will affect marine life and the area’s tourist economy and that the risk is too great for what some believe will be a small amount of oil and gas.

The final decision on federal seismic testing permits will be made by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.

U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford and 30 other representatives also wrote Hopper this month, asking BOEM to stop permitting and reviewing seismic testing in the Atlantic and to conduct a new study of potential environmental impacts.

In a statement, Sanford said the current process for issuing the permits is incomplete and doesn’t account for longterm effects on marine life and coastal economies.

During a radio interview with S.C. Small Business Chamber of Commerce president Frank Knapp this month, Hillary Clinton said the state should seek other energy alternatives, like solar and wind.

“I think there are real environmental risks, and I think it postpones the time when we all should be focused on what we’re going to do to move away from fossil fuels toward clean renewable energy,” she said. “…”We’re not going to drill our way out of climate change, energy and environmental problems.”

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