15 S.C. mayors urge Obama to say no to seismic blasting

A seismic survey ship in operation offshore mid-Atlantic states. File

Most Lowcountry mayors have signed a letter urging President Barack Obama to oppose seismic airgun blasting for the Atlantic Ocean.

Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling led the effort, and he was joined by the mayors of Charleston, Mount Pleasant, James Island, Isle of Palms, Sullivan’s Island, Folly Beach, Seabrook Island, Rockville and Edisto Beach, among others.

In March, the federal government decided not to permit drilling for oil and natural gas off the South Carolina coast, but three companies currently have state approval for seismic testing offshore for oil and natural gas — and none have withdrawn their applications.

Conservation groups now are targeting those permits.

The mayors’ letter urges Obama to deny seismic airgun blasting permits for the Atlantic Ocean that are currently pending at the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.

Such blasting helps pinpoint oil and gas deposits below the ocean floor, but critics say it can cause widespread harm to whales, commercial fisheries and other marine life.

“Rather than continuing to move forward with the federal permit process which would result in seismic testing, and potentially future drilling off the coast of South Carolina, we ask that you take immediate action to eliminate this threat that 23 communities in South Carolina have spoken out against,” the letter says.

The letter also notes that South Carolina’s coast has almost 79,000 jobs and more than $7 billion at stake in health of the ocean, mostly through fishing, tourism and recreation.

The letter also was signed by the mayors of Hilton Head, Port Royal, Surfside Beach, Myrtle Beach and Georgetown. Eight other counties and towns in South Carolina also have passed resolutions opposing seismic testing.

And it’s not just local leaders applying pressure. First District Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C., and Sixth District Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., and at least 53 other congressmen also have asked Obama to suspend federal plans for seismic mapping of the continental shelf.

Reach Robert Behre at 843-937-5771 or at twitter.com/RobertFBehre.