Yesterday, Briarcliffe Acres became the latest community in South Carolina to come out against offshore drilling off the state’s coast, an area that has been closed to such activities for more than three decades. This development means that now 100 percent of coastal cities and towns in South Carolina formally oppose seismic airgun blasting and/or offshore drilling. South Carolinians are united by a powerful sense of pride and stewardship for the place they live and as a result, coastal residents, business owners, the Gullah/Geechee Nation, and local, state, and federal elected officials are speaking out against offshore drilling in record numbers. In an editorial published August 12, 2015, the Charleston Post & Courier said, “It is hard to recall a grassroots effort that has advanced a cause so rapidly.”
The local resolutions opposing these activities have given the citizens and local governments of coastal states a voice on this issue that is being heard all the way in Washington DC. After all, it is these coastal communities whose economies and way of life would be most affected by oil and gas exploration and development. Coastal residents deserve as much input in this decision as the politicians who appear to be acting on behalf of the oil and gas industry.
This year, hundreds of thousands of citizens and numerous government officials have come out against offshore oil and gas development along the Atlantic coast. The opposition continues to mount. As of today, 86 East Coast municipalities, roughly 600 local, state and federal officials from both sides of the aisle, such as Reps. Mark Sanford (R-SC) and James Clyburn (D-SC), more than 300 coastal businesses, as well as over 160 conservation and animal welfare organizations, the Billfish Foundation, the International Game Fish Association, the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council and the Fisheries Survival Fund, have all publically opposed offshore oil exploration or development. This month, the Gullah/Geechee nation passed a resolution opposing these activities. The state capital of Columbia and the major ports of Charleston and Georgetown have passed resolutions as well.
U.S. Congressman Mark Sanford (R-SC) held a press conference earlier this year to announce that he had changed his position on seismic blasting in part because all of the coastal cities and towns in his district that had formally opposed offshore drilling and/or seismic blasting. In a letter to the Bureau of Ocean and Energy Management, Sanford wrote, “…weighing the balance between large blocks of untouched coastal estuarine areas, and in other parts, an established tourism industry, against the potential benefits of drilling is not something that Washington officials are best positioned to do.” Sanford added, “In my view, it makes little sense to even conduct tests when the states and regions affected will have no say in the process of determining – especially when factoring potential impacts on the environment, tourism, along with other risks inherent in the process.”
This is a wonderful example of how activism at the local level can have an impact on policy changes in Washington DC.
SC Governor Nikki Haley has previously supported opening South Carolina’s coastal waters to offshore drilling and exploration as a member of the Outer Continental Shelf Governor’s Coalition, which has been a strong proponent of Atlantic drilling.
Governor Haley should be listening to the voices of those she was elected to serve. South Carolina’s coastal communities are now 100 percent united against offshore drilling. Offshore drilling is a dirty and dangerous business that would threaten 79,000 jobs and $4.4 billion in revenue from fishing, tourism and recreation. Governor Haley shouldn’t be risking the way of life of her coastal communities on false promises from Big Oil.
The BP oil disaster is a clear example of the damage that offshore drilling can do to coastal communities and local economies. Even without a catastrophic oil spill, offshore drilling leads to routine leaks, proliferation of oil and gas rigs and the industrialization of coastal communities. South Carolina’s coast is just as important to protect the West Coast and New England, where new offshore drilling isn’t being considered because of opposition. South Carolina’s united coastal opposition is sending a strong message to Governor Haley and President Obama: South Carolinians don’t want oil on their beaches.
For more information about Oceana’s efforts to #StopTheDrill off the East Coast, please visit www.StopTheDrill.org.