Executive Order threatens SC coastline


From Hilton Head to Myrtle Beach, our state contains some of the most beautiful and historic places in the country. 

From the beaches, sea grasses, wetlands, marshes, and barrier islands along our coast to the incredible wildlife preserved at the ACE Basin National Wildlife refuge, there is no place quite like South Carolina -- and offshore drilling is simply not compatible with this fragile ecosystem.  Unfortunately, the Trump administration’s recent executive order to open the Outer Continental Shelf to drilling threatens to begin the drilling process off the South Carolina coast as well as open the Atlantic coast to this dirty and dangerous industry. 

We urge you to editorialize in opposition to offshore drilling in South Carolina -- an industry that would permanently damage the coast, deplete billions of dollars in tourist revenues, and would not benefit local economies.

To date, 23 coastal communities in the state have passed resolutions opposing offshore exploration and/or seismic blasting. The communities that have passed resolutions are: Atlantic Beach, Beaufort, Briarcliffe Acres, Charleston, Charleston County, Columbia, Edisto Beach, Folly Beach, Georgetown, Hilton Head Island, Isle of Palms, James Island, Kiawah Island, McClellanville, Mt. Pleasant, Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach, Pawleys Island, Port Royal, Rockville, Seabrook Island, Sullivan’s Island and Surfside Beach.
National efforts to allow drilling are out of touch with the wishes of the communities that would bear the risks associated with offshore drilling and an oil spill.  A clear example of such risks can be found by looking at the Deepwater Horizon disaster. 

In 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 workers and beginning what would become the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history. Between April 20th and July 15th, the uncapped oil well gushed an estimated five million barrels of crude oil and four million pounds of natural gases, including methane, propane, ethane, and butane, into the Gulf’s waters. An estimated 68,000 square miles of Gulf waters and nearly 500 miles of coastline from Louisiana to Florida were affected by the spill. 

The negative effects of the disaster are still being felt by the wildlife, community members and the economy. Tar balls are still washing up on the shores of Alabama, as well as other Gulf Coast states, and they are likely to continue washing up for years to come. Populations of fish and other marine animals have decreased since the spill and the economic damages are too great to accurately assess. The routine pollution that comes from an oil rig, as well as the risk of a catastrophic spill, would devastate South Carolina’s coastline.

In exchange, offshore drilling projects would be unlikely to generate significant economic benefit for our state. According to the Department of the Interior‘s last draft 5-year plan, “The pattern of employment supporting Outer Continental Shelf activities in the Atlantic…may result in low immediate economic benefits for nearby communities. A large proportion of workers during the exploration and development phases are likely to be sourced from other places.”

South Carolina is especially likely to get the short end of the stick if drilling takes place off our coast, because any jobs created would likely go to Virginia, not South Carolina. 

Virginia already has the prerequisite industrial facility, the Giant Industries Yorktown Refinery West Tanker Wharf Port Facility, to store and process the oil onshore. The facility is just a short distance away from the largest port on the east coast, in Norfolk, VA, making it the ideal location for transporting oil if drilling was to commence. The Norfolk port is also near a main interstate, making transportation cheaper and easier than it would be from a comparable South Carolina port. It is unrealistic to think that companies would skip over the accessible infrastructure that already exists in Virginia to build from scratch in South Carolina. If oil was drilled off of our coast, Virginia would get any jobs created and we would be stuck with the routine leakage from the rigs as well as the risk of major spills.

South Carolina’s offshore oil resources would not contribute greatly to the national economy, either. Interior acknowledged that if we exploited all of the economically recoverable resources off the East Coast from Maine to Florida, the oil would last for less than five months and the gas would last less than 10 months. 

Alternatively, it would take just 6 years of offshore wind production to generate more energy than that contained in all of the economically recoverable offshore oil and gas in South Carolina. In 20 years, offshore wind would generate the equivalent of one and a half billion barrels of oil more than all of South Carolina’s economically recoverable oil and gas.

A modest and gradual development of offshore wind would create more than 34,000 jobs in our state, or about 21,000 more jobs than would be created by offshore oil and gas drilling over the project lifetime. Threatening major sources of state revenue and jobs from the coast’s tourism and fisheries is unquestionably the wrong decision for South Carolina. 

The Trump administration’s support of offshore drilling does not reflect the sentiments of most South Carolinians, including Governor McMaster, who recently came out in opposition to seismic testing, the first step towards offshore drilling.

The South Carolina Sierra Club urges you to join the voices speaking out against the Executive Order to open drilling off the coast of South Carolina. Speak out in opposition to trading away South Carolina’s clean beaches and coastal economy for a dangerous and dirty business.



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