Governments up and down the South Carolina coast are lining up against President Donald Trump’s proposal for offshore drilling and seismic testing. Over the past month, local leaders from Myrtle Beach to Beaufort County have taken a stand against the proposal, and more areas are soon to follow.
Early in January, Trump announced plans to open nearly all coastal waters to offshore drilling and exploration, rolling back a ban that was set during the Obama administration. The plan includes waters off the South Carolina coast.
During a Myrtle Beach City Council meeting Tuesday afternoon, members reaffirmed their opposition to offshore drilling by updating a 2015 resolution, stating, “Myrtle Beach is the crown jewel of the South Carolina tourism industry and must oppose any activity threatening our residents’ livelihoods and investments.”
The resolution cites more than $410 million in state and local tax revenue generated by tourism, just in Horry County
“I think it needs to be clear that we stand with Congressman [Tom] Rice, Congressman [Mark] Sanford and Gov. [Henry] McMaster on this issue,” Myrtle Beach councilor Phil Render said during the meeting. “This is not negotiable. This is not an item up for debate as far as I’m concerned.”
South Carolina Rep. Tom Rice, whose district includes Myrtle Beach, reiterated his opposition to offshore drilling earlier this month, the Associated Press reported. Rice said that due to onshore oil possibilities, “tapping new reserves in the Atlantic has become less and less feasible.”
In the same report, Sanford called it a “big win” for coastal communities when the Obama administration banned seismic testing.
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster spoke out against offshore drilling recently, writing a letter to U.S. Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke, The State reported. The letter reads: “Every city and town council along the South Carolina coastline has voted to oppose seismic testing and drilling, and I agree with them.
“As a state which regularly faces such threats, we cannot countenance the addition of even more risk by placing offshore drilling platforms in the path of these storms. “I ask that you – along with my good friend President Donald J. Trump – take these considerations into account as you implement future offshore drilling plans.”
The Grand Strand coast
The north strand will soon follow Myrtle Beach’s lead, according to North Myrtle Beach Mayor Marilyn Hatley.
“Offshore drilling and tourism just do not mix,” Hatley said. “The tourism in the state of South Carolina creates thousands of jobs. It’s an economic engine for the state of South Carolina. It brings in multi millions of dollars to the whole entire state as well as some to our city’s. Offshore drilling will not do that.”
Hatley said that North Myrtle Beach City Council members plan to pass a resolution against offshore drilling during the Feb. 5 meeting.
“I think that it’s very important for people to realize that offshore drilling could have a negative effect on property values, and that if the public is against offshore drilling, they should be writing their legislatures and they should be sending emails,” Hatley said.
After learning of the administration’s decision earlier this month, Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus said he personally objects to drilling and seismic testing.
“It could be detrimental to our economy,” Lazarus said. “Our fisheries are doing well right now. Our shrimping season has been fantastic. We feel like any potential negative affect that seismic testing could have on that would be detrimental to our economy as well. It’s not what we need.”
Last year, Lazarus said that he testified before the South Carolina House of Representatives against offshore drilling and seismic testing, presenting a “county council resolution in opposition to both,” he said in a Facebook post.
The City of Georgetown has also taken a stand against offshore drilling, prior to Brendon Barber’s election to the mayor’s seat. Barber has reiterated his stance against offshore drilling, saying, “I’m against offshore drilling due to the way it impacts the ecological system with marine life and everything else that’s within our oceans, our livability.”
Now, several organizations across the state are planning rallies to protest the plan.
Stop Offshore Drilling in the Atlantic, also known as SODA, is planning a rally at the Waccamaw Neck Branch Library in Pawleys Island on Monday. A Facebook event notification states county residents will have the opportunity to learn more about the time line for seismic testing and offshore drilling.
The Coastal Conservation League, an organization based out of Charleston that works to protect the environment in South Carolina, is planning a protest in Columbia during a public comment session about offshore drilling.
“We certainly think that since coastal communities are the most strongly affected, that the hearings should have been on the coast and they shouldn’t make the person affected have to drive two hours to make their voice heard,” Eddy Moore, energy and climate program director for the Coastal Conservation League, said.
“We’ve got a $20 billion tourism economy and so the prospect that you might make some money far in the future, but we don’t know and we’re going to put all that at risk, just doesn’t seem like clear thinking,” Moore said.
Earlier this month leaders out of the City of Beaufort and the town of Port Royal joined the cities of Charleston and Edisto Beach last week in the federal lawsuit that would be filed by the S.C. Environmental Law Project.
While the lawsuit has not yet been filed, Hatley said that she has expressed interest in joining the suit, and that William Keyserling, mayor for the City of Beaufort, is taking charge on the case.