House Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee
April 25, 2018
Testimony of Alan Hancock
Good afternoon, Madame Chairwoman, and members of the subcommittee, my name is Alan Hancock. I am the Energy and Climate Advocacy Director for the Coastal Conservation League. We are a non-partisan, non-profit organization based in Charleston, with offices in Beaufort, Georgetown, and here in Columbia.
We work to protect the natural landscapes, abundant wildlife, clean water, and quality of life here in South Carolina.
I am here today to speak in favor of House Resolutions 4896 and 4892, and against House Resolution 4887.
You have heard quite a bit today about the impacts of drilling on our $20 billion tourism economy, and the unanimous opposition from coastal communities, as well as from Columbia and Greenville.
You have heard about the on-shore infrastructure that drilling would require–the pipelines, and repair docks, tanks, and possible refineries–and their incompatibility with our coastal economy.
But I want to mention a bit of history that reminds us of the stakes.
In May of 2015, I had the pleasure of speaking to the Hilton Head Town Council as they were considering their position on offshore drilling.
Mayor David Bennett said during the debate, “The question is, ‘What legacy are we going to put forward to future generations?’ I really think this is an issue that has a tremendous opportunity to impact what that legacy is.”
One of the other public speakers, Tom Barnwell Jr, agreed and reminded the council of the fight against a $100 million BASF chemical plant on Victoria Bluff near Bluffton in the early 1970s. Leaders in Columbia and Beaufort County had supported the plant. (You can read more about what happened in the Island Packet.)
But Gullah shrimpers–members of the Hilton Head Fishing Cooperative–and others who spent their time on the water, plus the new tourism industry, knew that a big chemical plant overlooking Hilton Head would be the end of their community and way of life.
They gathered 45,000 signatures, and delivered them to Richard Nixon’s Secretary of Interior in Washington on a shrimp boat. The Captain of the boat delivered those signatures, along with 25 pounds of Lowcountry shrimp, saying “Secretary Hickel, I wish to present to you, from the depth of the cool, clean Atlantic Ocean, food for the body, as well as the brain. We are depending on you to see that the waters remain as they are, so that we can continue to enjoy the natural resources of nature.”
The plant as you know didn’t get built. And that message of eternal vigilance resonated with Hilton Head town council three years ago. They knew that the prosperity and beauty of the coasts rests on decisions of our parents and grandparents not to industrialize our coast, not to turn it into coastal Louisiana or Texas or New Jersey.
Councilman Bill Harkins, just before the vote, said, “I think protecting the land and the water, it’s a sacred trust…It’s very clear to me. It’s a multigenerational responsibility.”
The Coastal Conservation League agrees. We have a moral obligation to future generations to steward the natural resources that we’ve been given. Thank you.