To Drill or Not to Drill

SC Politicians Divided

January 06, 2018 - 11:06 am

From Matt Long of the South Carolina Radio Network:

Members of South Carolina’s congressional delegation are divided — even among members of the same party — on a proposal by the Trump administration that would open most of the Atlantic Ocean’s continental shelf to oil and natural gas exploration.

The Department of the Interior announced a new five-year drilling plan Thursday. The proposal includes opening up the South Atlantic for the first time in decades to companies exploring for oil or natural gas between 2019-2024. The agency reversed its decision under the Obama administration to keep the waters off-limits.

Democrats are overwhelmingly against it and most coastal South Carolina city and town governments have passed resolutions opposing the idea. However, even coastal GOP congressmen like U.S. Reps. Mark Sanford and Tom Rice say the wishes of local governments should be respected.

“I think we could all agree that locals should have some degree of voice on what happens in their backyard,” Sanford said in a statement by his office. “Accordingly, I think it speaks very loudly that every single coastal municipality in South Carolina – and over 140 municipalities along the East Coast – have formally opposed oil and gas development off the Atlantic coast.”

However, Upstate GOP congressmen like U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan say it could be a boon for the economy. “The Obama Administration’s shortsighted offshore plan set the U.S. behind our competitors around the world and trampled efforts to move toward energy independence,” he said on Facebook. “It’s great to see President Trump correct this misguided policy and replace it with an aggressive, bold agenda to ensure the U.S. is the leading nation for energy security which is critical in our increasingly volatile world.”

Thursday’s order clears a regulatory hurdle for survey vessels to begin searching for potential deposits off the East Coast. However, the permits will almost certainly face legal challenges from environmental groups. It’s not clear if the surveys would find enough to justify future oil rigs either, as convention wisdom is that the South Atlantic lacks the potential drilling sites common along the Gulf of Mexico coast.

Other Republicans like Gov. Henry McMaster, U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy and U.S. Sen. Tim Scott did not outright oppose the drilling, but questioned its viability in South Carolina. “One of the reasons (coastal mayors oppose) is a question of where do the refineries and where do the tanks go?” McMaster told reporters Friday. “How about the trucks that come in and out, in addition to the possibilities of spills? So there are a lot of questions. We’ve got to be very, very careful with this.”

Gowdy was more succinct. “While offshore drilling has the potential to produce economic improvement and begin to remedy America’s dependence on foreign oil, it is critical and a condition precedent that we take the proper precautions to protect our environment,” he said in a statement provided by his office.”

U.S. Sen. Tim Scott’s office said he supports expanded oil drilling, but wants more buy-in from coastal residents first.

South Carolina’s lone Democrat in Washington U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn said he has “always staunchly opposed” offshore drilling near the state. “Tourism is our state’s No. 1 industry, and we cannot afford to risk destroying our beaches and coastal environments. If the President will not change course, Congress should act swiftly to block this dangerous expansion of offshore drilling.”

Both the Democratic candidates running for governor State Rep. James Smith and longtime activist Phil Noble say they strongly oppose offshore drilling. Lt Gov. Kevin Bryant is the only GOP candidate who outright supports the idea. Sanford’s GOP challenger State Rep. Kate Arrington also backed the proposal.

Bryant joined The Tara Show on Friday to discuss this. Click here to listen to the interview.

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