Citing the jobs potential, Gov. Nikki Haley has rushed to join her counterparts in Virginia and North Carolina in seeking exploratory drilling off the Atlantic Coast.
Jobs are great, but South Carolina has plenty along the coast because of the quality of its environment. Our state doesn't need to get on this bandwagon.
The governors made their pitch in a letter to Sally Jewell, who has been nominated to head the U.S. Department of the Interior. However, eliminating the drilling moratorium could threaten the Palmetto State's lucrative tourism industry.
The 2010 BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, where a Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded, remains a frightening example of the hazards that a major spill poses. And in a state like South Carolina, the coastal environment is the biggest draw for tourism.
The state's beaches attract millions to our coast. In addition, hundreds of thousands of coastal acres have been preserved as natural habitat in the region. Those areas contribute greatly to our quality of life, and not simply for wildlife.
Previously, some state leaders have encouraged offshore drilling in the Atlantic for the potential income to the state from royalties. And drilling advocates have insisted that they mainly support the search for natural gas.
But large deposits of oil and natural gas frequently are found near each other. Does anyone seriously believe if an exploratory well strikes oil it would simply be capped?
The BP spill resulted in more than 200 million gallons of crude flowing into the Gulf before the well was capped nearly three months later. Eleven workers on the rig were killed.
The resulting investigation found severe shortcomings in the industry's management and the government's oversight of offshore drilling.
As a result of those findings, the White House reversed its earlier decision to lift a ban on drilling off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and in the eastern Gulf.
Even with adequate industry and governmental safeguards, there is an inherent risk in offshore drilling.
South Carolina's chief executive should be wary of any prospective industry that poses a threat to one of our state's most valuable commercial assets.
And South Carolina's relatively pristine coast remains an essential natural resource that deserves vigilant protection.
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