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Islands unite in opposition to offshore oil exploration

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Demonstrators express their opposition to the possibility of offshore oil exploration in a gathering at Folly Beach.  File/Michael Pronzato/Staff

The possibility of offshore oil drilling is about as popular with local beach governments as the prospect of a hurricane.

Those feelings found expression this week when Isle of Palms, Seabrook Island and Folly Beach councils united with Sullivan's Island, Kiawah Island and James Island in opposition to a federal proposal that could allow oil exploration in the Atlantic Ocean.

Preserving the state's pristine coast and protecting its value to the economy are concerns cited in the islands' resolutions. In April, mayors from Charleston, Isle of Palms, Edisto Island and Sullivan’s Island held a press conference where they spoke in opposition to President Donald Trump's executive order aimed at opening vast areas off the East Coast to a search for oil and gas. 

The S.C. Environmental Law Project is considering a suit to block the search for offshore oil and is willing to represent interested beach communities at no charge.

On Jan. 4, the federal government published a proposal to permit drilling in most U.S. continental shelf waters, including the Atlantic outer continental shelf, which would allow seismic air gun surveying over a huge area ranging from the Delaware Bay, south to Cape Canaveral in Florida. Ships would crisscross the ocean shooting loud bursts of sound underwater to map the geology, according to news reports.

Groups such as the Natural Resources Defense Council are concerned about the impact on marine mammals exposed to the loud sounds, which they said could injure or even kill marine life, or damage their ability to communicate.

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