Post and Courier
April 14, 2019
Two offshore oil-related bills in the state House of Representatives seem to be stuck until next year. In an ideal world, the issue would be moot by then. Indeed, any debate ought to have ended some time ago.
One bill, sponsored by Republican Rep. Peter McCoy and Democratic Rep. Leon Stavrinakis, along with a broader bipartisan coalition including several other Charleston area lawmakers, would ban the approval of pipelines and other infrastructure related to offshore oil and gas drilling and seismic testing.
A second piece of legislation, sponsored by a handful of Republicans from the Upstate, would do the opposite and require coastal communities to accommodate drilling.
The bill championed by coastal lawmakers has obvious merit. Preventing the construction of tanks, pipelines, refineries and other oil facilities along the South Carolina coast would make it substantially more difficult — if not impossible — for drilling here to be feasible.
The other bill ought to be dismissed both as flying against the will of the majority of South Carolina residents who don’t want offshore oil and as an obvious assault on home rule, or the notion that local governments should have authority over matters that directly affect their communities.
South Carolina’s coastal governments have unanimously expressed their opposition to oil and gas drilling in state waters. Gov. Henry McMaster has also stated his disapproval.
Still, decisive legislative action will be necessary to stop officials with President Donald Trump’s administration intent on opening federal waters to a dirty, risky industry.
And they are proceeding aggressively with plans to make drilling a reality. On Wednesday, Mr. Trump signed executive orders reducing states’ ability to delay or block some oil and gas projects on environmental grounds, for example.
Fortunately, Rep. Joe Cunningham, D-S.C., upheld a central campaign promise by introducing a bill in March that would permanently close Atlantic waters to offshore oil and gas drilling and exploration.
The challenges of getting that piece of legislation through a clamorous, often dysfunctional House — much less a Republican-led Senate and a president explicitly in favor of Atlantic drilling — are obvious. A similar effort by Mr. Cunningham’s predecessor, Republican Mark Sanford, never went anywhere.
But there are bipartisan arguments against offshore oil. It’s ecologically destructive and contributes to climate change. It’s also economically illogical and would put countless jobs and billions of dollars in tourism revenue at risk.
In short, there is no compelling benefit to outweigh the obvious downsides of drilling off of South Carolina’s coast.
Mr. Cunningham’s bill acknowledges this straightforward reality. It warrants passage. So does Mr. McCoy and Mr. Stavrinakis’ bill, although we would prefer that it would soon no longer be necessary.