South Strand News
April 28, 2017
President Donald Trump signed an executive order Friday, April 28, that reverses current law and calls for a review of locations to expand offshore oil and gas drilling, likely targeting four Atlantic Ocean states, including South Carolina.
A news conference with Horry and Georgetown elected officials will be held May 4, at 10 a.m. at Damon’s Ribs, at 2985 S. Ocean Boulevard in Myrtle Beach. Myrtle Beach Mayor John Rhodes will make a statement, followed by other elected officials.
The order sets up a review by the U.S. Department of Interior, which could fulfill the industry’s goal of Atlantic and Arctic drilling in federal waters, located three miles offshore. The directive also orders a review to streamline the seismic testing process, and regulations affecting safety and environmental oversight.
“This order targets the South Atlantic, no doubt about it,” said retired Presbyterian minister Jim Watkins, leader of Stop Offshore Drilling in the Atlantic (SODA). “It’s a huge risk to our tourism based economy.”
Watkins said his group is working with coastal mayors to “do all we can to protect coastal South Carolina. We need the S.C. congressional delegation to stand up for the coast, and not the oil and gas industry. “
S.C. Governor Henry McMasters recently reaffirmed his opposition to drilling off South Carolina’s shores. U.S. Reps. Mark Sanford, Tom Rice, and Jim Clyburn also oppose drilling along the S.C. coast. Sanford has been a leader in the effort.
A plan finalized in 2016 omitted the Atlantic states from the threat of offshore drilling in the years 2017-2022. An outpouring of resistance from South Carolina coastal residents, business owners and mayors was instrumental in that decision.
“Its going to hurt the real estate business, which is a very important element in the Coastal economy,” said Murrells Inlet real estate broker Sandra Bundy. “ Do you know anybody who says they want to look at oil rigs or live or vacation near all the ugly, smelly onshore infrastructure?”
Bundy, a native of Georgetown County said her father was “a pioneer in commercial fishing. His livelihood depended on healthy ocean and river waters. That is not compatible with oil and gas drilling.”
Watkins pointed out that “when the massive Deepwater Horizon spill occurred in the Gulf of Mexico, tourism in the affected coastal areas dried up. The people who vacationed along those coasts came to coastal South Carolina. Some of them still come. Ask our local merchants, restaurant owners and their workers how they would survive two years or more without tourism.”
Bundy said people “need to know that it does not have to be a major explosion to cause damage to beaches, waters and marine life. There are constant small to medium leaks that occur every day in the drilling process at the rigs, during transport, and at the infrastructure onshore. The oil and gas has to be transported, so that means pipelines, tankers and rail. All that means a lot of disruption.”
Georgetown County native Rick Baumann, who owns Murrells Inlet Seafood, said “the impact on fishing from seismic testing will so disturb the ocean seabed, it will change our industry.” Seismic testing uses extremely high level and frequent bursts of sonic blasts into the seabed. “After the seismic testing, the companies drill exploratory wells. Don’t tell me those don’t leak. When your kid steps on a tar ball on the beach, come tell me this is a good thing to do.”
Baumann pointed out that “Every mayor and municipality in coastal South Carolina has gone on record opposing offshore drilling. Yet they are all being ignored. For what? So the industry can export the oil and gas overseas.”