A South Carolina House ad-hoc committee formed to explore the pros and cons of offshore drilling in the state brought out a variety of opinions Tuesday.
All coastal community mayors or council members who spoke at the committee hearing Tuesday were against the idea. They represented a few of the dozens of coastal communities which have passed resolutions opposing offshore drilling.
“If you build it, it will leak,” Folly Beach Mayor Tim Goodwin said. His was just one of many one-liners and quips presented to the committee in the morning session.
Goodwin says the drills and rigs may be miles offshore, but the oil or natural gas has to be piped somewhere on the coastline for distribution.
The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is considering the idea of opening parts of the South Atlantic — including off South Carolina’s shores — to seismic survey firms which would search for potential oil and natural gas deposits. The surveys would be years ahead of any drilling, which is not currently allowed in the Atlantic. South Carolina’s government would not have any authority over the waters beyond its borders, but could signify its support or disapproval to BOEM.
“Let’s say it’s out there and you find it,” Goodwin said. “What city, what town, what municipality, what area are you going to go to and say, ‘We’re going to destroy 10 miles of your area,’ or ‘We’re going to take your beaches?’ It’s not going to be here in Folly Beach. It’s not going to be here any longer because we’re going to turn this into the shore landing place along the coast of South Carolina.”
Charleston City Council Member Mike Seekings said he studied geophysics and wrote his thesis on structural geology. He said during the energy crisis of the 1970’s, the oil existed offshore, it would have been found back then.
“It’s just not there,” he said. “There’s no oil out there. If there was there would have been a grab a long time ago.”
“Is the dollars really worth it?” asked Mark Lazarus, Horry County Council Chairman. “Is everything really about money? I think in this situation it’s not. It’s not worth it. It’s not about the money.”
Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg worked in the oil industry and understands marine transport.
“I don’t believe it makes sense to risk that quality of life just because some politicians in Washington D.C. have seemed to forgotten the age-old adage that oil and water just don’t mix.”
“We would view this as a matter of federal intrusion,” said Georgetown City Council Member Al Joseph. “And I think most of you know in our history in South Carolina, we are a little bit opposed to federal intrusion.”
“One of the questions was if the feds come, what would you do?” asked Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling. “I don’t give them a building permit. That’s the thing a mayor or a city council can do.”
“If one tar ball washes up on Pawleys Island, is it not worth it?” Joseph asked.
Although the opinion was unanimous in the morning, the afternoon portion of the meeting included different opinions.
The South Carolina African-American Chamber of Commerce is in favor of offshore drilling, saying it would provide jobs to the people along the coast.
“Many of those folks have historically been denied opportunities for economic opportunity and jobs, and we’ve seen how industries like offshore drilling and others can have a significant impact,” said Chairman Stephen Gilchrist.
“A volatile energy market is a very big problem for us as the most advanced country in the world that’s very dependent on energy,” said a man who favors testing for offshore oil and natural gas resources. “If we can control production here, we can control the market and make it more stable, which would be very important for our economy, but also for our national security.”
“We have to make fact-based decisions in this state. There is so much disinformation that has been spread out there,” said Ellen Weaver, President of the Palmetto Promise Institute, what she called a “non-partisan, independent, public policy research organization.”
“There has been a very coordinated campaign along our coast, paid for by far left, extreme environmental interests,” she said. “If you look at the resolutions that were passed by many of our town councils, it’s no coincidence that many of them are pretty much the same resolution word for word.”
Weaver claimed the similar wording proved that there was a coordinated, out-of-state campaign organized to spread misinformation among the people of South Carolina.