News | May 17, 2019

Congressman: Drilling delay a tactic to help Trump allies avoid “electoral poison”

In court and on Capitol Hill this month, the Trump administration made clear that it is still moving forward with permits for seismic blasting even as it delays finalizing their five-year oil and gas leasing plan.

In a court filing in Charleston, the Acting Director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy management said the administration was “simply evaluating all its options” when it comes to the leasing plan, while it moves ahead with seismic permitting. Bernhardt told lawmakers a release of the leasing plan was “not imminent” and he “has time” to work on it before it expires in 2022.

But in a budget hearing Wednesday, South Carolina Congressman Joe Cunningham accused Bernhardt of playing politics with the process. Cunningham said he believed Bernhardt was putting the plan on hold because it is “electoral poison” for Trump allies — particularly on the East Coast where drilling is profoundly unpopular – and would be a potential negative in re-election campaigns. 

“The people of South Carolina aren't going to be fooled by this,” said the congressman.

Nat Mund, SELC’s director of federal affairs, reiterated Cunningham’s skepticism.

“This administration is well aware that drilling is profoundly unpopular, and they’re misleading the public as a result,” Mund said. “We have the administration telling the public that drilling plans have been delayed, while telling the court that they need to move ahead with harmful seismic testing immediately because all options are on the table. Coastal states deserve a more truthful and transparent approach.”

Coastal communities aren’t backing down either.  Thousands are expected to gather this weekend at the 10th annual Hands Across the Sand event on Saturday, May 18.  In our region, groups will gather at nearly two dozen beaches to link hands for 15 minutes to symbolically protect their coasts from oil drilling and seismic blasting.

Here are the locations in SELC’s region:


Tybee Island

South Carolina

North Myrtle Beach

Edisto Beach

North Litchfield

Folly Beach

Hilton Head

North Carolina


Holden Beach

Emerald Isle

Fort Macon

Ocean Isle Beach

Nags Head

Wrightsville Beach

Kure Beach

Ocracoke Island

Sunset Beach

Oak Island



Virginia Beach




To locate and join event at a beach near you, go to