Boatload of lawmakers oppose offshore drilling

Boatload of lawmakers oppose offshore drilling

Statehouse Report
August 18, 2017

By Andy Brack

A bipartisan group of 32 state legislators this month sent a sharply-worded letter opposing efforts to open offshore drilling and exploration for oil and gas along the Atlantic coast.

“The State of South Carolina is proud of our successful efforts to preserve the natural beauty that makes our state unique,” said the letter signed by 15 Republicans and 17 Democrats in the S.C. General Assembly. “We cannot afford to risk our natural beauty, distinctive sense of place, fragile ecology, and the multitude of outdoor recreation and tourism opportunities for the purported benefits of offshore oil and gas drilling. Doing so would be a step backward for our great state.”

The letter to the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management opposed including the coast of South Carolina in the nation’s oil and gas leasing program for 2019-24 for several reasons:

  • Safety. The letter notes little has been done to make offshore drilling safer since the Deepwater Horizon tragedy seven years ago that killed 11 people and spewed 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Tourism. It outlines how more than 80,000 South Carolinians are employed in coastal tourism and depend on beaches and coastal landscapes remaining pristine. “The quality of life we enjoy along our coast is a significant driver of economic growth opportunities, attracting international manufacturers as well as new residents.” The letter added that coastal tourism contributed $7 billion annual to the state’s economy.
  • Local opposition. More than 24 municipalities and counties formally oppose offshore drilling, the letter said. Additionally, it is opposed by the S.C. Small Business Chamber of Commerce and more than 400 business owners. Other opponents include Gov. Henry McMaster and Republican U.S. Reps. Mark Sanford and Tom Rice, who represent the coast.

Among those who signed the letter were:

S.C. Senate: Sens. Chip Campsen, R-Charleston; Darrell Jackson, D-Richland; Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg; Greg Gregory, R-Lancaster; Scott Talley, R-Spartanburg; Thomas McElveen, D-Sumter; Marlon Kimpson, D-Charleston; Vincent Sheheen, D-Kershaw; Nikki Setzler, D-Lexington; Sandy Senn, R-Charleston; Mia McLeod, D-Richland; Gerald Malloy, D-Darlington; Luke Rankin, R-Horry; and Tom Davis, R-Beaufort.

S.C. House:  Reps. Mandy Powers Norrell, D-York; William Clyburn, D-Aiken; William Wheeler, D-Lee; Micah Caskey, R-Lexington; Beth Bernstein, D-Richland; Shannon Erickson, R-Beaufort; Lee Hewitt, R-Horry; Robert Brown, D-Charleston; Leon Stavrinakis, D-Charleston; Bill Herbkersman, R-Beaufort; Wes Newton, R-Beaufort; Mike Sottile, R-Charleston; Leola Robinson-Simpson, D-Greenville; Todd Rutherford, D-Columbia; Gary Clary, R-Pickens; James Smith, D-Richland; Murrell Smith, R-Sumter; and William Cogswell, R-Charleston.

“I thank these public officials who have signed the letter to BOEM for their recognition of the adverse consequences offshore oil and gas exploration and development poses to our coast,” said Ben Gregg, executive director of the S.C. Wildlife Federation.  “It is unimaginable that we would want to transform our beaches, marshes and scenic coastal environment into an industrial zone and threaten our cherished way of life and harm our significant wildlife and marine resources.”