Here on our coast in South Carolina, we know how important it is to fight for the future of our beaches and do what we must to protect them. That is why a proposal by a Texas-based exploration company to conduct seismic blasting off our coast, as a precursor to offshore drilling, is of such great concern.
Fortunately, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control is reviewing this proposal in light of its potential impacts on sea turtles and recreational fishing. DHEC is able to conduct this review thanks to a little-known federal law called the Coastal Zone Management Act. The CZMA gives coastal states the opportunity to evaluate whether activities proposed by the federal government — including permitting activities and plans for oil and gas drilling off our shore — are “consistent” with their state plans for managing the coastal zone.
But recently, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration indicated that it is considering changes to the CZMA. In short: The federal government wants to infringe upon the ability of states such as South Carolina to protect our own coastlines.
Rooted in conservative principles, the CZMA is administered with the goal to “preserve, protect, develop, and where possible, to restore or enhance the resources of the nation’s coastal zone.” Under the CZMA, coastal states become eligible for several federal grants and gain the right to review the government’s actions that could affect coastal areas.
The consistency review authorities under the CZMA have never been more important than right now. When President Donald Trump initially proposed opening all of America’s coastlines to offshore oil and gas drilling, South Carolina and other states pushed back. After that, the administration promised to consult with state leadership before making any final plans.
But they haven’t. And instead, this move to potentially alter the CZMA would undermine states’ control and take away our ability to protect our coastlines.
I hope our congressional delegation pushes back aggressively against this move. We all share a responsibility to protect America’s ocean. It’s important that states have an opportunity to provide input on where and how to protect it.
We know how significant these actions could be, especially here in South Carolina where the ocean affects our economic future so much. Nearly 2.6 million jobs and $180 billion in GDP make up the clean coast economy in the United States. Offshore oil and gas drilling threatens our beaches, rivers, creeks, salt marshes and sea islands. It threatens wildlife like brown pelicans, bottlenose dolphins, sea turtles and endangered North Atlantic right whales. And it threatens our state’s financial prosperity by throwing into chaos our booming $20 billion tourism industry.
Every American has the right to enjoy a healthy ocean and clean beaches, but we have to fight to keep them that way, for the health of our ocean and the sake of our planet. We must work to protect the ocean so that our children and their children can have the same experiences we hold dear. That means fighting to preserve our rights to review offshore actions under the CZMA. The future of our coastlines depends on it.
Charleston resident Peter McCoy represents House District 115 in the South Carolina Legislature.