On Record is a regular feature which lets South Carolina’s policy-makers speak their mind about the issues most important to them. If you’re interested in guest-blogging for On Record, email PPR Editor Logan Smith. Today’s column is from Lam Le of the Palmetto Environmental Action Coalition.
Earlier this week, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham revealed his plan to open the South Carolina coast to offshore oil and natural gas drilling. Gov. Nikki Haley, U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) and the S.C. Chamber of Commerce also endorsed Graham’s proposal.
However, Sen. Graham has not always considered offshore drilling as a viable means of securing America’s energy needs and South Carolina’s economy. In 2005, Graham was quoted as saying, “offshore drilling would be a detriment to our economy along the coast.” Environmentalists everywhere, not just in South Carolina, are standing up to Sen. Graham to remind him just that.
Tourism is one of South Carolina’s biggest industries, and while Graham said in 2008 that South Carolina’s offshore oil and gas potential is a “cash cow,” environmentalists are concerned that bringing the industry to our state has consequences that are too risky to consider. Should a spill like the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 occur, South Carolina’s state economy will suffer — especially popular resort cities like Myrtle Beach and Hilton Head.
Sen. Graham says looking for oil and gas off our shores is paramount in trying to gain energy independence from hostile nations. Critics of the plan argue that the investment and risks associated with offshore oil and natural gas drilling aren’t worth the return, because there is little offshore oil and natural gas deposits are difficult to extract.
Graham’s plan would not allow drilling within 10 miles of the coast. Since when do the waters 10 miles offshore stop being a part of the coastal environment? As we have seen before, this is where marine animal habitats are disturbed by oil spills which could potentially kill thousands of whales, dolphins, and other wildlife. The future is not in continued reliance on fossil fuels; rather it is in aggressive development and investment in clean, renewable energy that has far less detrimental impact to the environment.
Protesters from the Carolina Peace Resource Center were present at Graham’s news conference.