Local group believes Trump’s offshore drilling ban in S.C. doesn’t go far enough

Updated: Sep. 9, 2020 at 7:44 PM EDT
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HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - President Donald Trump announced on Tuesday a 10-year moratorium on offshore drilling off the coast of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.

The ban will prevent oil companies from drilling off the three states' coasts from July 2022 through July 2032.

RELATED STORY | Trump expands ban on new offshore drilling sites in Atlantic

South Carolina U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham said when he heard Trump was looking into expanding the ban from the Gulf Coast of Florida to the Atlantic, he said he wanted to contact leaders in the Palmetto State to see if it was something that could be expanded to our shore.

“When I heard that I said ‘I need to check with South Carolina.' My view has always been when it comes to offshore drilling when it comes to South Carolina, it should be decided by South Carolina," Graham said in a virtual press briefing Wednesday.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said he’s in support of the moratorium.

“South Carolina is blessed with the most beautiful and pristine beaches, sea islands, and marshes in the nation. Seismic testing and offshore drilling threatens their health and jeopardizes the future of our state’s $24 billion tourism industry. Today’s announcement is good news, but we must remain vigilant in the conservation and preservation of our coastline,” said McMaster.

The anti-offshore drilling group, Stop Offshore Drilling in the Atlantic, said the announcement by the president doesn’t go far enough.

“We at SODA, we’re stunned with the news,” Joan Furlong said.

Furlong said the way the ban on drilling was written, South Carolina remains vulnerable to the effects of offshore drilling.

“If they drill in North Carolina, it’s 24 miles from Myrtle Beach,” Furlong added.

She said SODA wants the entire Atlantic Coast to be protected, but what was announced this week is a start.

During the virtual briefing, Graham said Trump had spoken about North Carolina being included. However, as of his announcement Tuesday, no moves have been made to include the state.

“I don’t know where North Carolina will be, but I talked to the president last night. He said if they wanted to be included in the executive order then he would do that," Graham added.

Still, even though Furlong said she’s glad to see progress, she said she thinks the moratorium seems hasty and questioned the timing right before the November elections.

Furlong added that Graham introduced the “South Carolina Offshore Drilling Act” in 2012 which opened the coast in South Carolina up to offshore drilling.

Jamie Harrison, who’s running for senate against Graham, said he doesn’t think Graham should get complete praise for convincing the president to include South Carolina.

In a statement, Harrison said:

“This excellent announcement is due to the advocacy from so many South Carolinians — I will be watching closely to ensure these headlines are translated into real action, but one person can’t claim any credit at all: Lindsey Graham, who wrote the ‘South Carolina Offshore Drilling Act’ which would open up our shoreline to the highest-bidding oil company. But 55 days out from Election Day, the political winds are changing and he’s singing a different tune. I’ll say once again what Lindsey Graham is still too afraid to say: Congress should ban offshore drilling. It’s the only solution to permanently remove this risk to our economy and coastal ecosystems."

When asked about why the ban isn’t permanent, Graham said he thinks in years to come, the country will not need fossil fuels as much as the United States does now.

“Here’s what’s gonna happen in the next 10 years. Demand for fossil fuels is gonna go down on the transportation side. There’s gonna be far less cars on the road running on gas than today. That’s an irreversible trend. There will be more electric cars, there will be more hybrid cars. So when it comes to the transportation side, the demand for fossil fuels is gonna go down,” Graham said. “In the next 20 years, my hope is that we’ll be far less dependent on fossil fuel for transportation and energy production. Which will not only help the environment but will change the world’s politics."

Still, Furlong from SODA said they’re not done until the whole coast is protected.

“The moratorium is a tremendous step forward. It’s not the final step. So we aren’t going to stop until we see a ban in drilling for the entire Atlantic,” Furlong said.

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