Published on June 12, 2012
By SUSANNE M. SCHAFER | Business Week
Three top South Carolina Republicans came together Monday to support federal legislation thatwould allow drilling of gas and oil off South Carolina’s coast, arguing thestate’s need for jobs and income outweigh potential problems.
“There is a riskin everything you do, but the biggest risk is to do nothing,” said U.S.Sen. Lindsey Graham. He said his plan would protect the environment and bardrilling in a 10-mile buffer zone off the coast.
The governor and theS.C. Legislature would determine whether oil and gas exploration could occurwithin the next 10-to-50 mile stretch, while all areas 50 to 100 miles offshorewould be open to drilling leases, Graham said.
Gov. Nikki Haley and U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan joined Graham at a news conference, where all said theyhope the legislation in the U.S. Senate would lead the nation to energy independence and bring thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in revenue tostate and federal coffers. Graham was introducing it in the Senate Monday.
“Offshoredrilling is where we need to be,” said Haley. “This will bring somany more jobs.”
The state’s joblessrate was 8.8 percent in April.
Haley said those whomight protest against such drilling have valid concerns, but, she added,”We’re not compromising tourism to do this.”
Duncan said he plansto introduce similar legislation in the House. “This legislation will helpour state lead the way in energy innovation,” said the congressman from Laurens.
Graham faultedPresident Barack Obama’s administration for standing in the way of oil and gasexploration, and said the situation could change with the November elections.
“If Gov. (Mitt)Romney becomes President Romney, this will happen,” Graham said.
Virginia was slated tobe the first state on the East Coast to offer oil and gas drilling, but that plan was shelved by the Obama administration last year after the massive 2010BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
In recent weeks, thefederal government has been holding hearings along the Atlantic Coast to gatheropinions and discuss the potential environmental impact of offshore drilling.
Representatives of the several business groups such as the state Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce and the Palmetto Agribusiness Council also attended the session to show their support for Graham’s plan. The Council released a study done for them by a local consulting firm which said an offshore drilling industry could spawn 7,500 jobs by 2030 and about $87.5 million annually in sales, income and royalty taxes.
South Carolina tourismis a $15 billion industry, and the latest figures for 2010 showed that 1 in 10jobs, or more than 170,000, are tied to tourism. The industry also producesabout $1.2 billion in state and local tax revenue.
Environmental groupshave argued that alternative fuel choices are preferable to offshore drilling.
Frank Knapp, Jr.,president of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce and vicechairman of the American Sustainable Business Council, said in a statement releasedMonday that a comprehensive energy plan would be preferable to seeking fossilfuels offshore.
“It is importantfor our elected officials not to settle for a few jobs for South Carolinaassociated with drilling, digging or piping when thousands of good jobs arewaiting to be created in the areas of wind, solar and bio fuels,” Knappsaid.
Original Article: http://www.businessweek.com/ap/2012-06/D9VBL0S00.htm
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