Offshore drilling a bad bargain for S.C. (copy)

In a June 23, 2010 file photo, crews work to clean up oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill washed ashore at Pensacola Beach in Pensacola Fla. (AP Photo/ Michael Spooneybarger, File)

The Lowcountry I call home is a place entirely at odds with the dirty and risky development of offshore drilling, yet that’s exactly what the federal government intends to bring to our Atlantic coast.

The expansion of offshore drilling will only expose our communities and environment to harm. The Trump administration needs to take the Atlantic Ocean off the table as an option for drilling altogether and prioritize protecting our existing coastal industries instead.

As the newly elected representative of South Carolina House District 15, I represent a district of citizens who do not want oil and gas activities off their coast — not now or ever. One hundred percent of South Carolina’s coastal communities have passed resolutions opposing such development, contributing to a united front that extends from Florida to Maine.

Any way you look at it, the expansion of offshore drilling is a bad deal for South Carolina. Healthy ocean resources contribute to a way of life here and coastal towns depend on clean shores to prosper. Driving the regional economy, these natural resources generate billions of dollars for the state year after year and provide jobs to tens of thousands of residents. Coastal towns such as Charleston, Myrtle Beach and Hilton Head draw millions of visitors annually. If Atlantic drilling becomes a reality, however, our tourism industry could rapidly disappear.

Like tourism, the fishing industry is closely tied to South Carolina’s bountiful saltwater. Fresh-caught seafood is a staple here. Moreover, it’s part of the culture along the coast. With over 15 years of experience as a professional chef, the fate of our seafood industry is of particular importance to me.

Superior cooking is centered around having access to the highest quality ingredients. For local seafood, that means healthy salt marsh habitats so that young marine life can grow and pristine offshore waters where those species can mature. These habitats won’t foster productive ecosystems if oil spills and infrastructure are added to the mix.

From boat to plate, seafood provides a crucial source of income for many hardworking South Carolinians. The fishing industry, and in turn the food industry, would suffer if a spill happened anywhere off our coast. People don’t want to eat fish if it’s coming from waters tainted by oil. It has been a long time since BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, but the thought of spilled oil still leaves customers wary of the area’s seafood market. Consumer confidence dropped along with sales as people were less willing to buy Gulf crabs, shrimp and oysters due to health concerns. Directly after the episode, fishery closures cost the commercial fishing industry at least $247 million. The overall value of degraded fish stocks could reach $8.7 billion by 2020.

When oil companies drill, they inevitably spill. It’s our coastal communities that will suffer the consequences if oil starts washing up on their shores. It’s our fishing vessels, restaurants and hotels that won’t see a profit if slicks appear off our coast. It’s our coastal treasures that could be replaced by leaky oil infrastructure and industrialization.

The Trump administration needs to reverse its course on the risky plans for drilling off the East Coast. South Carolina’s elected officials need to stand strong against the expansion of offshore drilling in order to protect our coast. If rigs dot the horizon and oil companies move in, it will only negatively affect us. The culture of the Lowcountry doesn’t include offshore drilling and I intend to keep it that way.

State Rep. JA Moore represents S.C. House District 15, which includes parts of Berkeley and Charleston counties.