Historically, conservation has been championed by conservatives of both parties.
Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Richard Nixon are credited with establishing national parks and forests and passing landmark legislation like the Clean Water Act.
Former Congressman Arthur Ravenel and former Sen. Fritz Hollings both understood that natural resources are the Lowcountry’s greatest economic asset.
Whom you elect to represent the 1st Congressional District matters when it comes to protecting your quality of life now and in the future.
Whether you live in downtown Charleston, on a Dorchester farm or inside a gated community in Beaufort, you have a stake in the special election slated for May 7.
Whether you consider yourself a liberal or a conservative, here are three questions that you should ask the candidates vying to represent you.
First, do you support extension of the Land & Water Conservation Fund?
The LWCF was established in 1964 to address the increasing loss of open space, forests, and wildlife habitat. Over $180 million in LWCF funding has benefited South Carolina, including the ACE Basin, Cape Romain, Fort Sumter and Francis Marion National Forest.
It also provides matching funds for the purchase of recreational complexes such as athletic fields, and development of county and city parks. The LWCF is not funded with taxpayer dollars like the rest of the budget because it was negotiated to direct receipts from oil and gas drilling on the outer continental shelf to conservation.
Past Congresses and administrations from both parties have failed to appropriate the full $900 million annually and diverted funding instead to the Treasury’s general fund.
Sen. Lindsey Graham recently co-sponsored legislation to permanently reauthorize the LWCF.
Second, do you oppose drilling for oil off of South Carolina’s pristine coast?
In 1982, the perils associated with oil and gas development along the country’s outer continental shelf prompted Congress to create the first offshore oil and gas drilling moratorium that protected new areas from offshore drilling. In the fall of 2008, Congress, under intense political pressure, did not vote to renew the congressional ban on developing new federal waters. In 2009, South Carolina’s Board of Economic Advisors concluded that “given the relatively low amount of potential oil resources off our shore and the environmental sensitivity of our coastline, there does not seem to be much incentive to drilling off South Carolina at current prices.”
If you do not oppose drilling, where would you recommend on-shore refining be located on our coast?
Third, do you oppose using the Savannah River Site to store high level commercial waste from nuclear power plants that once was slated for Yucca Mountain? Already, 45 out of 51 huge tanks at SRS are holding 37 million gallons of unstable, highly radioactive liquid waste waiting to be vitrified or solidified to a safer state. Completing this task could take at least 20 years — if the federal government fully funded it.
The President’s Blue Ribbon Committee on America’s Nuclear Future may soon recommend one of two “Consolidated Interim Storage Facilities” to manage spent nuclear fuel until a final repository is established to replace Yucca Mountain. Designation of SRS for “interim storage” would bring up to 70,000 more tons of high level nuclear waste to South Carolina upstream of Beaufort’s drinking water.
Other questions could be posed relating to keeping National Parks open, funding the Environmental Protection Agency and enforcing the historic Clean Air and Water Acts, but these three questions relate directly to the Lowcountry.
Elections are about choices. The questions you ask now will influence the decisions made in Washington tomorrow and the quality of life in South Carolina for your grandchildren.
Arnie Nemirow is a board member of Conservation Voters of South Carolina. He lives in Mount Pleasant.