August 25, 2018
By Bristow Marchant
U.S. Sen. Tim Scott long has been an advocate of opening South Carolina’s coast to offshore oil exploration. But public feedback on the issue has caused the Charleston Republican to change his mind.
And, evidently, he is not alone.
While Scott continues to believe in the possibilities of offshore oil exploration in the Palmetto State, he told a recent constituent event in Ridgeway that he knows who he has to stand with.
“My position is as public as it gets on offshore drilling,” Scott said in a video of the Aug. 8 event posted by the environmental group Oceana SC. “Offshore gas is a real possibility.
“(But) I have said and continue to say that as long as the coast of South Carolina is universally solidified in opposition … I will stand with them, although I believe there is some actual benefit to going offshore and seeing what’s possible.
“Fortunately or unfortunately, my constituents disagree with me,” Scott said. ”As a public servant, this is not a legal, ethical or moral issue. I have sided with my constituents.”
A majority of S.C. voters — 51 percent — oppose offshore drilling, according to a February poll by Winthrop University. Opposition is even stronger — 54 percent — in the state’s six coastal counties, according to that poll.
Leaders of several coastal communities have come out against any planned drilling along the coast. GOP Gov. Henry McMaster, a Trump ally, also has asked the Trump administration to protect South Carolina’s coast.
Frank Knapp, president of the S.C. Small Business Chamber of Commerce, said Scott should follow up with action.
“He’s said he’s going to stand with his constituents, but what is he going to do about it?” Knapp asked.
Scott spokesman Sean Smith said the Republican senator long has stressed that coastal residents should have “buy-in” before any drilling operations move forward. Smith said the senator had “simply taken a step back” in his advocacy of exploration.
Drilling was a big issue in the Republican congressional primary in South Carolina’s 1st District, where drilling opponent Mark Sanford lost to state Rep. Katie Arrington, who hit Sanford for opposing Trump’s agenda.
But, running against Democrat Joe Cunningham in the coastal district in November, Arrington since has said she, too, opposes offshore drilling.
In audio of the Ridgeway event provided by Scott’s office, the senator differentiates his stance from Sanford’s.
“Not because I am where Mark (Sanford) is by the way,” Scott said. “He’s opposed to it. I simply think if you can’t convince constituents it’s in their best interests, it’s wise to take a step back from your own position and follow your constituents.”