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Signs were displayed in May as the speakers addressed the crowd during the 8th annual Hands Across the Sand event at Folly Beach to oppose offshore drilling in the Atlantic Ocean and push for clean energy alternatives. Michael Pronzato/ Staff

Groups that rallied coastal residents last year to stop offshore drilling will hold another rally Aug. 7.

This time, they're pushing for Gov. Henry McMaster to do what he can to block the reopening of the state's coast to seismic testing and drilling for oil and natural gas.

Don't Drill Lowcountry and Oceana's South Carolina chapter will host other conservation groups and Sen. Chip Campsen, R-Isle of Palms, at the informational update rally, which takes place 6 p.m. at the Yacht Club, Charleston Harbor Resort, 20 Patriots Point Road, Mount Pleasant.

It is free and open to anyone interested. 

The federal government and Trump administration recently reopened the exhaustive process to decide whether to open areas offshore to leasing. The Obama administration had shut it down in late 2016.

"This is the point in the process that governors have a huge role. South Carolina has the potential to be removed if Gov. McMaster sends in a letter of opposition on the record," said Samantha Siegel of Oceana.

Five companies have filed permit requests to explore for oil and gas, and all of them want to explore at least part of the waters off South Carolina. The National Marine Fisheries Service in June issued the rules for how the tests would take place regarding the safety of marine mammals. Those rules are up for public comment.

The work must not conflict with the coastal zone management plans of individual states, according to federal law. South Carolina could stop it if the governor and his administrative agency, S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, made that call.

Seismic testing entails firing powerfully loud sonic guns underwater every 16 seconds to read “echoes” from the bottom geology. The tests take place over miles of ocean for months at a time. It is the first step to opening the areas for drilling, and can include drilling test wells.

Industry representatives say it's been done for a half-century without any demonstrated real world harm. Controlled studies have indicated it harms sea life as basic as vital zooplankton food organisms.

McMaster has tended to oppose the work, most recently telling a Beaufort County group in June he was against it. But McMaster also has broadly supported President Donald Trump, who favors both testing and drilling.

Reach Bo Petersen Reporter at Facebook, @bopete on Twitter or 1-843-937-5744.

Science and environment reporter. Author of Washing Our Hands in the Clouds.