MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) – Republican South Carolina Senator Stephen Goldfinch, of Murrells Inlet, recently sat down with News13’s Bob Juback as part of our digital segment, “Capitol Watch with Bob Juback”.
OFFSHORE DRILLING AND OIL INDUSTRY
Many coastal municipalities and elected officials have been adamantly against offshore testing and drilling for oil and natural gas.
However, one who publicly supported exploration off our coast was Senator Goldfinch. About two and a half years ago, before a U.S. House subcommittee, he testified that he thought offshore oil and gas exploration could pay dividends to local communities for generations.
But in our recent interview with Senator Goldfinch, he told News13’s Bob Juback that he’s backed off his stance, in part because, he says, we don’t have enough available land for the industry.
“That’s a tremendous industry with tremendous jobs,” Sen. Goldfinch said. “But if we don’t have land for it in South Carolina, if the land we have is not suitable for the industry, there’s no use in throwing support behind something that can never happen and should never happen. We shouldn’t try to squeeze 5 pounds of sausage into a 2 pound bag. Right now, we’ve got a 2 pound bag, South Carolina’s coast is a 2 pound bag, and the oil and gas industry is 5 pounds of sausage.”
COASTAL ACCESS TO AN INTERSTATE AND GROWTH
On the topic of coastal access to an interstate, Sen. Goldfinch said that in his discussions in recent years with members of the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce and the Department of Commerce, the lack of an interstate has hurt our area in some ways.
“One of the most important and first things we hear about: How’s your access to the interstate? Right now, the answer is: we don’t have access to an interstate,” Sen. Goldfinch said. “It’s an hour and a half from my house to an interstate. I have personally witnessed multiple industries turn us down. ‘Sorry, thank you very much’. We lost to Huntsville, AL or we lost to Portland, whatever it may be, because of that, and that’s a shame.”
On a related note, he also spoke about ongoing growth in our area and mentioned increasing concerns about traffic.
“We need to really seriously think about: Do we want the additional roads and bridges, and if so, how are we going to speed that process up- the funding, the permitting, the environmental impact statements- or maybe we ought to seriously start thinking about if we want that kind of growth. Do we want smarter growth? Do we want to be looking for thousands and thousands of more people on the road every single year or do we want to start thinking about a different model?”
Sen. Goldfinch says the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is not concerned about coyote control in South Carolina. He says DNR doesn’t think humans can have an impact on coyote numbers and he ‘disagrees completely’.
“I’ve done lot of things with coyotes. I’ve tried to open up the season for trapping them year-round. I’ve tried to put bounties on them. I think anything we can do to depress the coyote population is good for us and good for the SC native species. We do everything we can to protect native species in SC and we do everything we can to try to wipe out invasive species in SC. Coyotes shouldn’t be any different and I don’t know why DNR wants to treat them any different.”
FUTURE OF SANTEE COOPER
Sen. Goldfinch was also very direct about his views on potentially selling state-owned utility Santee Cooper.
“I’m in the ‘no sell’ category. I think that Santee Cooper needs some reform. No doubt about it. There are some things that need to be reformed. They’ve made some mistakes but when you look at what they can reform to, when you look at what they are now, I don’t think there’s any way that a for-profit power company can come in and can offer a better deal to South Carolinians. When it comes to econ development, hands-down, Santee Cooper beats them all. When it comes to rates, hands-down, Santee Cooper beats them all. When it comes to direct-sell favorability ratings, hands-down, Santee Cooper beats them all. So right now, I’m in the ‘no sell’ category.”