South Strand News
December 23, 2015
By Anita Crone
Three representatives of small South Strand businesses took their opposition to offshore drilling and seismic testing to Gov. Nikki Haley’s representatives in Columbia on Dec. 16, pointing out potential economic and environmental problems with the proposal that has been endorsed by the governor.
The trio – Sandra Bundy and Rick Baumann of Murrells Inlet and Peg Howell of Pawleys Island – argued against claims by proponents of testing and drilling that the procedures are safe and would not adversely affect the all-important tourism industry along the South Strand.
They also joined in presenting the governor’s office with a petition signed by more than 400 small business-owners, more than 65 of them in Georgetown, Pawleys Island and Murrells Inlet, opposing drilling and testing.
“Any time you get a small business-owner to put his name on anything that has political implications, you know it’s important,” said Frank Knapp, president and CEO of the SC Small Business Chamber of Commerce.
Howell, president of Howell Consulting Group, a home-based business, told the gathered media, that “all one needs to run a home-based business is a computer, a telephone, Internet access and transportation to your clients’ offices and, of course, a home.”
She added more than 16 million people work from home in the U.S. and, as that number is predicted to increase by 64 percent in the next four years, fewer people may settle along the South Carolina coast.
“Owners of home-based businesses choose where they want to live,” Howell said. “Seven years ago, my husband and I chose Pawleys Island. I know that when the South Carolina coast is threatened by damage from offshore drilling, this once beautiful place will no longer be an attractive choice to home-based businesses. We will take our businesses, our revenues, our tax dollars and our homes elsewhere.”
Bundy, a real estate agent, was equally strong in her opposition. She cited statistics from an economic impact study that Coastal Carolina University completed for Murrells Inlet 2020 that set the Marsh Walk’s impact on the 29576 ZIP code at $249 million of the area’s total $720 million.
“The most remote possibility of an oil spill is not worth the risk of our estuary, our marsh or the ocean,” she said. Bundy said after the BP Horizon spill, real estate sales were down in the Gulf of Mexico, even in areas not affected by the spill.
An April 20, 2010, explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling platform started what NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration calls “the largest marine oil spill in U.S. history,” and released millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf.
“The perception of oil beaches kept away visitors and buyers who normally filled homes along the coast,” Bundy said. “We can create a better legacy for South Carolina, and I challenge Gov. Haley to do just that, by changing her position on drilling in the Atlantic.”
Baumann, founder of Murrells Inlet Seafood, was steadfast in his opposition to drilling, citing what he called the continuing profound effect of the BP Horizon disaster.
“Going on six years now after the event, the Gulf is not back to business as usual as the thousands of BP TV commercials we have seen would indicate,” Baumann said.
He cited fishery statistics that he said “paint a totally different picture” of business as usual in the Gulf.
“Louisiana (Department of Natural Resources) statistics show a drastic landings decline in seven of eight critical commercial and recreational fish species,” Baumann said. “Depending on which landing statistics you use, yellowfin tuna, the most important money fish harvested in the gulf, are down from 53 to 70 percent since the spill.”
All of the speakers, including Robert Barber of Bowens Island Restaurant and Kathie Livingston, representing the Bulls Bay Chamber of Commerce, Nature Adventures Outfitters, S.C. Paddlesports Industries Association and the S.C. Nature-Based Tourism Association, called on Haley to reverse course and remove South Carolina from the four states with offshore areas that are considered for drilling.