The Obama administration is now gathering public input about potential inclusion of East Coast states in upcoming plans for expanded offshore drilling.
The green light for seismic testing and exploration has already been given, and now leases for oil and gas development in the Atlantic are under consideration.(Comment period is open until August 15th. See www.boem.gov/Five-Year-Program-2017-2022/#Comments).
For a tourism-dependent state that prides itself on our coastal resources and landscapes, this news should be more than a little troublesome.
The allure of lower gas prices and energy independence has convinced some that the presumed benefits of offshore drilling outweigh the risks.
The reality is that the best information currently available leads one to conclude the exact opposite. Even analyses by the Bush administration's Department of Energy determined that development of Atlantic oil and gas reserves would have an insignificant impact on consumer prices and foreign energy dependencies.
Special interest groups like the American Petroleum Institute claim these are outdated numbers and that new exploration will reveal larger reserves of fossil fuels along our coast.
Unfortunately, the data collected from exploration activities will not be shared with the public or the states, thereby making a legitimate cost-benefit analysis impossible.
In the absence of new data, we are left with what we know today: Offshore drilling poses threats to fisheries, estuaries, wetlands, marine mammals, shellfish and seabirds, as well as the quality of life enjoyed by our coastal communities.
The state's thriving tourism economy could also be expected to suffer.
Certainly some jobs would be created at the refineries and storage facilities that accompany this industry, and building pipelines to move oil under our beaches and across our marshes would generate some employment opportunities.
But at what cost?
As was stated by the S.C. Board of Economic Advisors in 2009, "While offshore oil and gas activities have become much safer in recent years, spilled oil and coastal shorelines don't mix."
This position was taken prior to the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster that is still plaguing wildlife, fisheries, and the communities of the Gulf Coast.
Now we understand that "safer" doesn't actually mean safe. We now know that accidents are part and parcel of the offshore drilling industry, even in the 21st century.
Before Friday, Aug. 15, take a moment to let the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) know South Carolina isn't interested in the oil industry's Faustian bargain that would compromise the best South Carolina has to offer, the integrity of our coast.
Hamilton Davis is the energy and climate director of the Coastal Conservation League.
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