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McMaster says he opposes offshore drilling in S.C. waters

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Gov. Henry McMaster has voiced his opposition to drilling and seismic testing off the coast of South Carolina following a move by President Donald Trump to open much of the Atlantic waters to those activities.

Trump unveiled a draft proposal early this month that would enable oil and gas companies to obtain permits for offshore drilling in most continental-shelf waters in the Atlantic Ocean, as well as the Arctic Ocean, the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico.

This follows Trump’s executive order in April to open U.S. waters to oil and gas exploration. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has now identified 47 possible areas for such companies to buy leases between 2019 and 2024.

McMaster did not elaborate on next steps with the Trump administration or whether he plans to ask for the removal of S.C.’s coast as a possible drilling site. Florida has been removed after such a request from Gov. Rick Scott, who strongly opposed drilling along the Florida coastline.

McMaster said he will “take the appropriate steps” and will have “more news later.”

Oil and gas companies celebrate the chance to search for reserves in U.S. waters. Many industry executives and politicians tout the proposed program as a chance to increase domestic energy independence.

Conservationists; many coastal states; and coastal residents that rely on tourism, boating or fishing industries for their livelihoods strongly oppose the draft program.

“Our tourism industry and our glorious natural resources, particularly in the Lowcountry, are beyond compare in the United States. They are a source of enormous economic growth and prosperity, and we cannot take a chance with those resources, those industries and that economy. It is just too important,” McMaster said last week to a group of reporters in Columbia. “This is a matter of serious importance to us in South Carolina.”

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said state leaders and coastal communities have time to share their opinions on the draft program in the coming months, ahead of a final proposal.

The currently proposal would allow nine lease sales in the Atlantic. There have been no sales in the Atlantic since 1983 and there are no existing leases, according to the Department of the Interior.

Reach Liz Segrist at 843-849-3119.

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January 16, 2018

Nothing wrong with exploring to see what is out there. If it's natural gas, which is my understanding, then it's a much safer extraction. Governor McMaster is wrong again.