South Strand News
June 13th, 2018
By: Clayton Stairs
After a recent announcement by the American Petroleum Institute about a new coalition in support of increased access to U.S. offshore oil and natural gas resources, oil drilling opponents say it is a “fake” coalition.
API held a phone conference for the press on June 6 about the coalition, called Explore Offshore, which they say is made up of community organizations, associations, businesses and local leaders across the Southeast in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. Explore Offshore’s national co-chairs, former Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jim Nicholson and former Secretary of the Navy and Virginia Senator Jim Webb, led the press conference, as well as chairs from each of the five states.
“With 94 percent of the Outer Continental Shelf currently off-limits to exploration and development, and demand for natural gas and oil expected to rise, we must take this opportunity to increase our domestic energy reserves,” Nicholson said. “Domestic energy sources are critical to reliable and affordable energy for U.S. consumers, as well as an important source of energy for our military operations and ensuring that we don’t continue to rely on foreign adversaries for our energy.”
State chairs are former delegates Winsome Sears and Mike Watson for Virginia; former mayor of Fayetteville Nat Robertson for North Carolina; S.C. African American Chamber of Commerce Chairman Stephen Gilchrist for South Carolina; Georgia State Petroleum Council Director Hunter Hopkins for Georgia; and former Puerto Rico state Sen. Dr. Miriam Ramirez, former Florida Lieutenant Governor Jeff Kottkamp and former Director of the Crestview Area of Chamber of Commerce Wayne Harris for Florida.
Frank Knapp Jr., president and CEO of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce, and Peg Howell, co-founder of a grassroots group called Stop Oil Drilling in the Atlantic, say that this coalition is an effort by oil companies to muddy the waters when it comes to support for seismic testing and drilling for oil and natural gas in the Atlantic Ocean.
“The petroleum industry knows that it is in serious jeopardy of not getting the permits it wants to conduct seismic airgun blasting in the Atlantic to search for oil and gas deposits,” Knapp said. “It knows that the public, businesses, local coastal governments and state government leaders overwhelmingly oppose exploration and drilling for oil in the Atlantic. So Big Oil is creating this fake coalition made up primarily of former elected officials who have no responsibility to represent the public and businesses that will be harmed.”
Howell agreed, saying that the oil and gas industry is bringing out its big guns to promote drilling in the Atlantic in order to export U.S. reserves to foreign countries like China.
“API information is biased for one purpose and one purpose alone: making money for the oil and gas industry,” she said. “Many people are still unaware of the dangers of oil and gas exploration and production in the Atlantic, so please help spread the word at every opportunity.”
Nicholson said by opening up the Atlantic Ocean to oil drilling, the Trump administration can build a long-term path to hundreds of thousands of new jobs in a high-paying industry. Howell said API is quoting false claims about jobs, and Knapp said only areas that agree to have infrastructure for the oil industry will see thousands of jobs.
“Our actual coastal tourism and fishing economies far out-weigh API’s best estimates of oil and gas jobs and revenues,” Howell said.
Webb said this coalition is a much-needed, commonsense step for America’s energy future. When asked how drilling for oil and gas in the Atlantic Ocean would affect tourism, he said it would not affect it since oil rigs would not be seen from the shore. He also said new technology and safety measures developed since the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico will hasten the response when something does happen to release oil into the ocean.
“Energy security is national security and domestic energy production is a key contributor to a healthy national economy. Oil and natural gas are the key drivers of the world’s economies,” Webb said. “We remain vulnerable in an expanding global economy marked by ever-growing energy needs.”
Knapp said that opposition to oil drilling and seismic testing was never about seeing it from the shore and that any new safety measures since the Deepwater Horizon explosion have been rolled back by the Trump administration because they are too expensive for the oil industry. He is now waiting for any news about seismic permits being issued, which he and other groups represented by lawyers with the South Carolina Environmental Law Project are ready to fight in court.
“We have thrown down the gauntlet and if there is any permitting, they have to fight us off,” Knapp said. “We are the ones who will bring the lawsuits and make a stand. We are organized and legally ready.”