South Carolina lawmakers took yet another major step forward in the fight to protect their coast from the Trump administration’s proposal to open nearly all our oceans to offshore drilling. On Jan. 15, a South Carolina Senate subcommittee advanced a bill blocking all infrastructure to facilitate offshore drilling. Introduced by state Sen. Chip Campsen (R-Charleston), Senate Bill S.870 has 31 bipartisan co-sponsors and sailed through the agriculture subcommittee on a 4-1 vote. The bill will now go to the full agriculture committee and then to the Senate floor.
While states may not have the authority to prevent drilling in federal waters, a ban on infrastructure creates a strong deterrent for companies wishing to drill off South Carolina’s coast. Without the necessary onshore pipes, refineries, etc., any oil extracted offshore would have no way of making it to South Carolina’s mainland. In the event of expanded drilling, this bill will also prevent the industrialization of South Carolina’s coast, which generates over $22 billion in GDP in tourism alone.
South Carolinians have long been leaders in the fight to prevent the expansion of offshore drilling. In 2014, Edisto Beach became the first municipality in the state to pass a formal resolution expressing opposition to offshore drilling activities. Since then, more than 28 South Carolina municipalities have formally opposed offshore drilling activities, including every coastal community in the state. And just last year, the state’s legislature passed a one-year ban preventing local governments and the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) from using state funds for offshore drilling permitting, planning or licensing. This effort was led and signed into law by Gov. Henry McMaster.
S.870 takes the 2019 ban a step further by establishing a permanent ban on offshore drilling infrastructure. When enacted this bill will build upon the already strong opposition to offshore drilling in South Carolina and entire Atlantic coast.
From North Myrtle Beach through the Lowcountry, South Carolinians rely on a healthy ocean. Their beach towns attract millions of visitors each year, while local fisheries supply fresh seafood daily. A sustainably managed ocean stimulates the state’s economy and protects what so many South Carolinians hold dear. Oceana applauds Campsen and the subcommittee for their efforts to protect their coast.