Myrtle Beach council plans to vote on offshore drilling issue - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

Myrtle Beach council plans to vote on offshore drilling issue

Myrtle Beach Council Member, Randal Wallace Myrtle Beach Council Member, Randal Wallace

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Myrtle Beach City council members are talking about off-shoring drilling along the coast.

They plan to vote on whether or not to support making more than 50 miles off the coast of the Carolinas, Virginia, and Georgia, available to oil companies for off-shore drilling by 2021.

The last time council members were discussing the issue of seismic testing and offshore drilling was earlier this year, back in March. No vote was made, instead Councilman Mike Lowder made the suggestion to postpone the resolution. He said there wasn't enough time to debate the measure, others agreed.

Now, members are expected to discussed the issue on Tuesday's agenda. 

Dozens of coastal cities and towns have taken a stand against the issue. The city of Charleston, along with other Palmetto State communities like James Island, Folly Beach and the Isle of Palms have all already come out against the drilling.  Wilmington, North Carolina, last month, was the latest to say 'no' to off shore drilling. 

It's part of an Obama Administration proposal. 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. Opponents of offshore drilling worry that spills could damage fisheries and the important coastal tourism industry. Supporters say drilling can be done safely and will mean jobs and new revenues

According to Councilman Randal Wallace, council held off of on the vote back in March, because they wanted to focus on more pressing issues at the time, like the budget, and Bikefest preparations. 

"It's just a lot of assets and a lot of good things that could come from this that we should look at before we make a knee-jerk reaction to vote, said Councilman Wallace. 

Wallace said he has worked with the South Carolina Energy Forum and has served on the Energy, Environment, Natural Resources Committee, and he understands the benefits of off shore drilling.

He says when it comes to a final decision on the issue, he knows he could be standing alone against other council members but feels off shore drilling could diversify our economy, and bring more high paying jobs to the area.

"The possibilities for Georgetown County and the port over there and rural Horry County are pretty huge, this would be a huge economic boost," Wallace explained. 

But Peg Howell, a member of the local grassroots group, Stop Offshore Drilling in the Atlantic says the jobs are not worth it.

"The jobs that would come would be for people who don't live here," said Howell. "This (off shore drilling) could have a long-term impact on our coastline."

Howell also said it could also kill the natural beauty of the Grand Strand. "You do want to look at the possibilities if you had a disaster, I don't want to discount people's concerns," said Wallace. 

Wallace said he wants other city council members and the public to be educated more on both sides before a final vote is made. Howell said that city council did bring up talks about having a forum that would allow both sides to address their issues but it never happened. Howell said SODA has been hosting its own forum to educate people and said several members of council have attended their events. 

But Wallace has felt the industry that would like to drill, has not had the same opportunity. Wallace said, "We've talked about having some type of educational forum where the industry gets to come and do some type of presentation and for that matter the environmental folks, one that would let the public and the council members come and see both sides."

Howell said SODA, along with several other groups are expected to be present at the city council meeting. 

The meeting is scheduled for August 11 at 2 p.m. 

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