South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster wants offshore ‘no drill’ oil exemption just like Florida

Charleston Post and Courier
January 10, 2018

By Bo Petersen

Gov. Henry McMaster plans to ask the Trump administration to exempt South Carolina from offshore drilling, just as the Florida “no drill” promise started to spell trouble for the president.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said late Tuesday that drilling would be “off the table” when it comes to waters in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean off Florida.

Zinke called Florida unique because of its valuable coastal tourism economy.

McMaster told reporters Wednesday he wants the same for South Carolina.

“We cannot afford to take a chance with the beauty, the majesty and the economic value and vitality of our wonderful coastline,” McMaster said.

Meanwhile, drilling opponents and supporters each reacted sharply on Wednesday to the announcement.

“The way they did it is just baffling,” said Nat Mund, Southern Environmental Law Center federal affairs director. “This whole thing is a mess both politically and procedurally. If they pre-decided (leases) before public comment, that violates the law.”

Opponents in South Carolina have argued for years that the limited potential for fossil fuel resources off the coast is not worth jeopardizing the state’s billion-dollar tourism economy. Other Southeast coast states have echoed that argument.

“If they are taking states out of the drilling plans because of the tourism impacts from oil and gas, then they should obviously take South Carolina off the list. As it stands, the federal government’s misguided plan imperils our $20 billion tourism economy,” said Alan Hancock, of the Charleston-based Coastal Conservation League.

“I want to invite Secretary Zinke to visit the coasts of every Atlantic Coast state with their respective governors,” said Frank Knapp, president of the Business Alliance for Protecting the Atlantic Coast, who is based in Columbia.

“He will find that each is unique and generates tourism, commercial fishing and recreation dollars that drive their local and state economies. Every one of these states deserves Mr. Zinke reaching the same conclusion to continue the ban on offshore drilling on their outer continental shelf,” Knapp said.

Randall Luthi, president of the National Ocean Industries Association organization of oil exploration companies, called the move disappointing and premature.

“The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act clearly outlines a deliberative, inclusive and lengthy review process before any preliminary leasing proposals are finalized,” he said, adding the decision curtails exploration and study that could translate into jobs and additional energy sources for the state.

The Trump administration announcement abruptly reversed its plans to open that state among nearly all of the United States coastline to drilling. The decision was made under pressure from Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott. Florida is a pivotal swing state in presidential elections.

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