MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. — Two congressmen, opponents holding signs and dozens of others turned out Wednesday as the federal government held another public meeting on the contentious issue of opening wide swaths of the Atlantic off the Carolinas coast to oil and natural gas exploration.
“Keep your oil off our beaches!” read a sign held by Charlotte Witte, a 32-year-old dental assistant from Johns Island. She stood outside a motel where the federal Bureau of Ocean and Energy Management was holding a public meeting to take comment on the proposal.
“I think this could be disastrous for surfers, fishers and anyone who likes recreational sports in the ocean,” said Witte who is also a surfer.
Inside the motel, the bureau was taking comments on a proposal that could open tracts off the Carolinas to gas and oil exploration later this decade. The agency is taking comment through the end of the month in developing the areas to be included in environmental studies.
At a motel across town before the meeting, U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-South Carolina, a strong advocate of offshore oil exploration, appeared with business and community leaders to support opening up the offshore waters to energy exploration.
“South Carolina and the South-Atlantic areas have a good opportunity to play a role in American energy security,” he told about 40 people attending the session, adding new studies are needed to determine how much energy there is off the coast.
“We’re making a lot of assumptions on 30-year-old seismic data. I think it’s important we use 21st century data and we use 21st century technology to gather that data,” he said.
Duncan said developing offshore energy industry can be done safely and could mean thousands of jobs as well as revenue for both the state and coastal counties.
U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford, R-South Carolina, in whose district the Ocean and Energy Management meeting was held, has traditionally opposed offshore drilling.
He stopped by the meeting and told the AP that “my perspective continues to evolve. I never saw any great danger in mapping and testing. Then you can make an intelligent decision on is whatever is there worth the contingent liability from a damage standpoint.”
But he added he’s not sure much oil and gas will be found.
Tim Tilley of Georgetown, chairman of the Georgetown Port Task Force, said the oil industry would be good for the city, which already has an industrial base with its paper and steel mills.
The port, he said, would be ideal for natural gas shipments and has an authorized channel depth of 27 feet while many ports handling such shipments are not even that deep.
He added that unlike the busy resort areas along the coast, folks in western parts of Horry and Georgetown County need jobs.
“Their boats need to rise on a rising tide and this industry provides that opportunity for us,” he said.
This article was written by Bruce Smith from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.