South Carolina Senate bans oil infrastructure

A path leading to Folly Beach, South Carolina.  (© Bill Lea)

The South Carolina Senate voted this session to ban the infrastructure needed for offshore drilling and seismic blasting, showcasing the state’s ongoing and bipartisan resistance to the Trump administration’s plans to open the Atlantic Ocean to petroleum companies.

To establish the ban the Senate added a proviso to the state budget, essentially a clause or a condition that must be agreed to in order to pass the budget. The proviso would block state funds from being used to support the kinds of infrastructure needed for offshore oil drilling.

Environmental reporter Sammy Fretwell of The State newspaper in Columbia had this description of the measure:

“Wednesday night's 40-4 vote ends months of inaction in the Legislature over the increasingly unpopular plan by President Donald Trump to allow seismic testing and drilling along the South Atlantic coast. The Senate's approval of a budget proviso, which supporters hope would stop drilling, now moves to the S.C. House for concurrence.”

Many of the lawmakers who voted for the measure have been vocal supporters of SELC’s legal efforts in South Carolina to prevent oil drilling.

“This proviso would effectively block expansive industrialization of our entire coastline, something that is incompatible with the fragile beauty of South Carolina’s shore and our quality of life,” said Laura Cantral, executive director of the Coastal Conservation League, one of SELC’s partners in the fight against drilling. “We applaud Gov. Henry McMaster for his continued support on this important effort, and Sen. Chip Campsen for leading the charge.”

Campsen introduced the proviso.

While drilling opposition is a bipartisan effort along the entire East Coast, with more than 220 municipalities officially against it, the opposition South Carolina has been nearly unanimous.

Local and state politicians from both parties have vociferously pushed back against the Trump administration’s proposal to allow offshore drilling. Gov. McMaster, an early and vocal Trump supporter, has urged the president to abandon the effort. South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson, a conservative Republican, has joined a legal effort to block seismic blasting in the Atlantic.

SELC and several other conservation organizations have filed a lawsuit in Charleston challenging the legality of the Trump administration’s approval for seismic blasting. Sixteen South Carolina coastal communities and the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce also filed a similar lawsuit, and those two cases have been combined.

Ten East Coast attorneys general have joined the lawsuit and 13 of 14 East Coast governors are on record opposing seismic blasting and oil drilling.

Cantral says she hopes the state’s House of Representatives joins the Senate in blocking drilling.

“State lawmakers should immediately seek every opportunity to protect South Carolinians and our vibrant environment and economy from dangerous offshore drilling and seismic testing,” she said.

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