MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) – Environmentalists say they don’t think a temporary ban on offshore oil and natural gas drilling in South Carolina goes far enough.
President Donald Trump signed a 10-year moratorium on Tuesday to prevent drilling off the coasts of the Palmetto State, along with Georgia and Florida. Grand Strand environmentalists say this is good news, but a small first step.
The group Stop Ocean Drilling in the Atlantic (SODA) is worried offshore exploration hasn’t been blocked in North Carolina or Virginia’s part of the Atlantic Ocean.
“It’s only 24 miles from Myrtle Beach to the North Carolina border and we know that industry is very interested in drilling there,” said SODA volunteer Joan Furlong. “The deepwater shelf is much closer to shore.”
The moratorium begins in July 2022. It’s unclear if any exploration activity off South Carolina’s coast can happen before then.
Furlong says that might include seismic testing, which uses repetitive sound waves to find oil under the ocean floor.
“There are still five companies awaiting their permits and it could be devastating for marine life,” she said.
Grand Strand Rep. Tom Rice, R-S.C., says he disagrees that any activity will happen off the Palmetto State because of falling oil prices.
“Even if [President Trump] hadn’t put a moratorium on it, I don’t think the drilling companies would be interested in it,” Rep. Rice said.
Rep. Rice says he supports the ban for South Carolina’s coast and while he’d like to see North Carolina’s coast included in the moratorium, he says he wouldn’t push for it.
“I’ll leave that in North Carolina’s people and delegation,” said Rep. Rice. “I’m certain it would have some effect on us if there was drilling and there was some kind of accident up there.”
Melissa Watson, who’s the Democratic candidate running against Rep. Rice in November, says offshore drilling should be banned for the entire coast from Maine to Florida.
“We’ve got to do it across the Atlantic so that we’re all safe,” Watson said.
Watson also says offshore drilling bans need to go further to save the Grand Strand’s tourism and environment.
“Let’s protect our fishermen,” she said. “Let’s protect our beaches. Let’s protect our way of life. Let’s protect our water sources and let’s ban offshore oil drilling forever.”
The moratorium runs until the end of June 2032.