Hundreds of small businesses urge Nikki Haley to oppose offshore energy development

The Charleston Post and Carrier
December 16, 2015

By Maya T. Prabhu

COLUMBIA — More than 400 mostly coastal small businesses presented a letter to Gov. Nikki Haley on Wednesday voicing their opposition to oil and gas drilling and seismic testing off the state’s coast because of fears it could harm the environment and tourism.

“Offshore seismic testing and drilling is a threat to our thriving tourism economy,” said Frank Knapp Jr., president and CEO of the S.C. Small Business Chamber of Commerce. “That kind of industry is simply incompatible with what attracts our tourists — great beaches, natural wetlands, wildlife, sport fishing and unique and historic coastal cities and towns.”

More than 250 of the businesses are located in the Charleston area.

Haley’s spokeswoman, Chaney Adams, said the governor believes offshore exploration should be done in a way that doesn’t compromise the environment, ports or tourism industry, but stressed that it was critical to the state’s economic development.

“Exploring offshore for energy is critical to our future because it means jobs, energy independence from other countries and security for our state,” Adams said.

South Carolina is one of four states whose coast is being considered for energy development. Haley was part of a coalition of governors working largely behind the scenes with industry lobbyists to urge the Obama administration to do so.

In January, the Interior Department included the region in its proposed areas for five-year leases to explore using blasts of seismic guns 50 miles or more offshore, then drilling sample wells.

U.S. Reps. Mark Sanford and Tom Rice, Republicans who represent the South Carolina coast from North Carolina to the Georgia state line, have come out against offshore energy exploration. At least 23 South Carolina municipalities have passed resolutions against seismic testing and/or offshore drilling.

Alice Morrisey with the nonprofit Don’t Drill SC — Lowcountry said she hopes Haley will change her mind and rescind her support for drilling and testing off the state’s coast.

Morrisey said organizers began collecting signatures from businesses in late September.

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