With state legislators wrangling over whether to stop or support offshore oil drilling, Sen. Chip Campsen wants to ensure nothing happens through the next year by inserting a construction ban into the budget.
Campsen, R-Isle of Palms, on Wednesday will introduce a proviso — which is a clause in the proposed budget — to prevent state or local governments from approving plans to build facilities onshore that would support the controversial work.
The idea is to evade a filibuster or other legislative move from stymieing bills that would do the same thing.
Campsen conceded the proviso, which would last only for the budget year to June 30, 2020, is a stopgap in case the Trump administration approves going ahead with seismic blast testing for oil and gas off South Carolina — a decision that's been expected for months.
As a budget proviso, the measure will get a simple up-or-down vote. It could be re-attached next year, Campsen said.
"It circumvents (legislative) procedural impediments," he said. "It's a tactical move to put it in a better procedural environment, and I think it will pass."
It's not likely to pass without some commotion.
Campsen's move comes a week after dueling bills blocking or promoting onshore infrastructure for the work both passed a House subcommittee where the proponents of each bill thought the other might die.
Campsen's bill, that also would prevent state or local governments from approving infrastructure plans, remains in a Senate committee.
Most coastal legislators support some sort of ban. At least some inland legislators favor the the pursuit of drill and its economic opportunity of attracting more business.
"The proviso gives us some time to find a legislative solution to keep dirty infrastructure off our coast," said Alan Hancock, energy advocacy director for the Coastal Conservation League. "I'm looking forward to the debate."
Five companies currently are in the process to be granted federal permits to conduct seismic testing off South Carolina, with a decision on the permits expected by the end of April. The work, sought by the Trump administration, is widely opposed on the coast.
The issue pits a concern for the environment and South Carolina's multibillion-dollar tourism industry against potential new revenue and jobs.
Seismic blasts have been shown to disrupt and injure sea creatures such as whales.
Sen. Paul Campbell, R-Goose Creek, who chairs the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee where Campsen's bill sits, said it was scheduled for debate then was postponed because of scheduling conflicts.
"We had other bills that had a higher priority," Campbell said about why it hasn't come up for a vote.
The committee might bring it back up before the session ends to give it priority for next session, he said.
Campbell said the bill would have pluses and minuses — stopping industrialization of the coast but giving other states the economic advantage if oil or natural gas is found. He has no objection to the proviso, he said.
"To me it's innocuous because you're not going to get anybody building anything onshore in the next year," Campbell said.
"If the seismic permits are approved, you could have infrastructure being permitted this year," he said. "We can always pass a permanent bill later."