Offshore drilling to be discussed at forum in Myrtle Beach -, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

Offshore drilling to be discussed at forum in Myrtle Beach

Details on the public forum being held Thursday. Details on the public forum being held Thursday.

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - A public forum is scheduled at the Market Common to discuss the possibility of offshore drilling on the South Carolina coast.

The community forum is scheduled for Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Myrtle Beach Base Recreation Center at the Market Common. The group, SODA POP, which stands for Stop Offshore Drilling in the Atlantic Prevent Oil Pollution is hosting the forum.

While some people support offshore drilling, like Governor Nikki Haley, others are very against it, including many environmental activists. The SODA POP group stems from the federal proposal to open the Atlantic Ocean for seismic testing and off-shore drilling for oil and gas. The group wants you to come out and learn about the topic, and how it can impact the environment and the economy in the Carolinas.

“It would have a horrific impact on our tourist economy,” says Joan Furlong, a SODA POP volunteer. “The Grand Strand is a huge generator of income to the state of South Carolina. One oil spill, can you imagine what that would do to our tourist economy? It would crush it.”

The group will host a guest speaker, Peg Howell, on Thursday. She is a local resident and was a former petroleum engineer, with experience working on oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico and the North Sea. The goal of SODA POP is to get the attention of Gov. Haley and legislators to change their minds about offshore drilling.

Those who support offshore drilling say it's a way for our nation to become more efficient. Governor Nikki Haley says if the federal government will lease to gas and oil companies, it will mean more jobs and investments for the state.

Environmental groups, like SODA POP, disagree. Activists say job numbers are inflated and many won’t be local.

“One of the main arguments for drilling is America needs to be energy independent,” says Furlong. “And we are almost energy independent today. We’re the largest natural gas producer in the world and in just five years we’re expected to be the largest producer of oil. We don’t need to drill in the Atlantic.”

The Obama Administration proposal would allow drilling 50 miles off the coast of several Atlantic states, including South Carolina. If approved, that could start by 2021.

So far, not many local leaders have decided to take a stand one way or the other. According to Mark Kruea, the spokesman for the city of Myrtle Beach, the council still hasn’t talked about it. So there is no official city position on the subject of offshore drilling. Kruea says it could still come up as a subject., even though he thinks the urgency has passed since the comment period has closed on the federal proposal.

Brad Dean, the president and CEO of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, says, “We support Sen. Scott’s efforts to expand energy production in the South Atlantic region. America needs energy independence and this proposed legislation is a big step in the right direction.  We’re especially appreciative of Sen. Scott’s commitment to protecting our coastline and the region’s tourism industry.  By ensuring offshore drilling is done safely and efficiently, and granting state governments the authority to control permanent placement of infrastructure, we can balance the needs of our coastal communities with economic growth.  This act will spur job creation and domestic energy production while providing adequate protection for our environment. The creation of a single regional energy planning effort should ensure collaboration and an equitable sharing of royalties.”

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