The Greenville News
April 21, 2017
Even amid a strong tide of opposition among coastal Carolinians, one of the strongest proponents of offshore energy exploration sees abundant economic opportunity for South Carolina and the region if President Donald Trump loosens restrictions on energy development off the Atlantic coast.
U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., is his state’s most vocal proponent for offshore energy exploration.
“I am the only guy who is talking about it. The only guy who has studied it,” Duncan said in a recent interview. “If you want to talk energy, you talk to me. It is something that I am passionate about.”
Duncan and U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson, R-N.C., are co-chairs of the Atlantic Offshore Energy Caucus. The other members of the five-person group are Rep. David Rouzer, R-N.C.; Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C.; and Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-Va.
But support among congressional delegations in the Carolinas is not unanimous, and the divisions don’t fall along party lines. Rep. Mark Sanford, a close ally of Duncan on many issues, has taken an opposing position on offshore energy. He and several other coastal leaders strongly objected this month to seismic testing and oil and gas drilling off the Atlantic coast in a letter to the Secretary of the Interior.
Oil and gas interests work hard to bring politicians on board, and that includes putting money into campaign coffers. One member of North Carolina’s congressional delegation, Sen. Richard Burr, has accepted more than $838,000 in contributions from oil and gas interests and he has co-sponsored legislation regulating offshore energy in the past. Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., who supports offshore drilling, has accepted $517,000 in contributions from the industry, according to OpenSecrets.org. Sanford has accepted $26,900 from the industry, according to the website.
Others, such as Rep. Trey Gowdy who represents Greenville and the 4th District in South Carolina, are more circumspect on the issue.
“While offshore drilling generally has the potential to bring economic improvement, jobs and begin to remedy America’s dependence on foreign oil, it is critical and a condition precedent that we take the proper precautions to protect our environment,” Gowdy said in an emailed statement. He puts that burden on the ones who do the drilling.
One of the strongest arguments in favor of offshore energy is the jobs it would create, and that’s what Duncan, who has accepted $153,900 from the industry while serving in Congress, trumpets loudly.
“What I do know about any sort of energy development offshore are the jobs that it creates onshore,” Duncan said. “The offshore operations have to be serviced onshore. Those are the pipefitters and welders and food service and helicopter supply vessels, the activity in the port.
“Those guys are living in our communities and they’re employed and they’re buying vehicles and they’re getting bodywork done and they’re going to local restaurants — they’re eating, they’re tipping the waitresses.” he said.
Reported by Kirk Brown, Anderson Independent Mail