Tuesday, April 30, 2019 Blog · News

S.C. House Agriculture Committee passes bill to ban onshore infrastructure for offshore drilling

by Alan Hancock

On Tuesday, the House Agriculture committee approved an important bill  (House Bill 3087), which would keep the onshore infrastructure associated with offshore drilling out of our communities.

The Coastal Conservation League has long opposed drilling for oil and gas off our coast. The risks are just too great. Offshore oil and gas drilling threatens our beaches, rivers, creeks, salt marshes and sea islands. And it could harm brown pelicans, bottlenose dolphins, sea turtles and endangered North Atlantic right whales.

Offshore oil and gas drilling also threatens our coastal quality of life and our state’s $20 billion tourism industry. A spill like 2010’s Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf would hurt thriving industries, job growth, and local fisheries. It would irreversibly damage ecosystems that attract businesses and families to the Lowcountry.

A third problem is the industrialization that drilling would bring to our coastal communities.

Despite these problems, the federal government continues to include South Carolina in its plans for offshore drilling. Late last year, the National Marine Fisheries Service gave the final approval necessary for seismic blasting. And we went to court to stop it, along with 16 cities and towns and Attorney General Alan Wilson.

In a motion filed earlier this year requesting an injunction, Wilson said:

“(Seismic testing) would be contrary to applicable law and would have a disastrous impact on marine life and therefore, the economy of South Carolina and the recreational and commercial interests of its citizens.”

Similarly, H. 3087 aims to protect the health, safety, and welfare of South Carolina citizens by directing relevant permitting agencies like the Department of Health and Environmental Control not to allow infrastructure associated with offshore drilling.

Focusing on the infrastructure makes sense. It’s a clear problem, and through the South Carolina Senate, our state can control it. Most drilling activity would happen in federal waters, so we don’t have direct control of it.

South Carolina has some levers to push. We can comment during public comment periods. The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, or “OSCLA,” requires the Department of Interior to consult with affected governors, and Gov. Henry McMaster has made his position crystal clear on this.

And the General Assembly has power. In this case, it’s providing direction to state agencies with permitting authority.

Sen. Chip Campsen often says that if you want to know what drilling brings, look at the drilling infrastructure in places like Port Fourchon, Louisiana, and Texas City, Texas.  I’ve done that, and Sen. Campsen is right.

If the federal government approves drilling plans for the waters off the East Coast, H. 3087 would keep that drilling infrastructure out of our communities. That’s why we support the bill, and we applaud Rep. Peter McCoy on his leadership on this issue.

 


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