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Offshore drilling proponents, opponents to gather in Columbia

Staff Report //February 12, 2018//

Offshore drilling proponents, opponents to gather in Columbia

Staff Report //February 12, 2018//

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The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will meet Tuesday in Columbia to discuss President Donald Trump’s proposal to open the South Atlantic coast to oil and gas exploration. On the same day, opponents of offshore drilling are holding a rally at the Statehouse.

The Trump administration announced the proposal in early January with hopes of opening nearly all U.S. federal waters to offshore drilling and related activities. It is currently the largest number of potential offshore lease sales ever proposed.

"This bold new leasing plan is welcome news for South Carolina’s energy consumers and economy,” David McGowan, Southern regional director of American Petroleum Institute, said in a January statement. “The ability to safely explore our energy resources is an important part of constructing a forward-looking energy strategy that will provide economic growth, spur investment and manufacturing, and boost job creation while safely coexisting with South Carolina’s tourism industry. The development of our abundant offshore resources will also help the U.S. meet its energy needs well into the future while also strengthening our national security.”

A recent study found that the U.S. natural gas and oil industry supported 67,600 jobs in South Carolina and contributed $5.23 billion to the state’s economy in 2015.

But not everyone is excited about the possibility of drilling off the S.C. coast. S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster asked that the state be exempt from the plan, and Republican U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford and Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin are also against offshore drilling.

Diane Hoskins, campaign director for Oceana, an international ocean conservation advocacy group, said in a news release, “This plan opens the floodgates to dirty and dangerous offshore drilling, threatening coastal economies that rely on clean and healthy oceans.”

Eddy Moore, energy and climate program director for the Coastal Conservation League, said in a news release, “South Carolina has been clear from the start: We aren’t for sale. Coastal communities like Charleston, Beaufort and Myrtle Beach have spoken out against drilling, as has Gov. Henry McMaster … A spill like 2010’s Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf (of Mexico) would devastate thriving industries, our $20 billion tourism economy, job growth and local fisheries. We are deeply concerned for our state’s beaches, rivers, salt marshes and sea islands, and for the people and wildlife that call our coast home.”

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management meeting will be from 3 to 7 p.m. Tuesday at the DoubleTree by Hilton at 2100 Bush River Road.

The drilling opponents’ rally on the north steps of the Statehouse is set for 11 a.m. Tuesday.