COLUMBIA, S.C. (WBTW) – The offshore drilling debate was at center stage in the state capitol Tuesday afternoon.

The Department of Interior held its first public meeting in Columbia to decide whether to allow for oil drilling and seismic testing off the coast of South Carolina. This comes after the Trump administration opened all of the United States’s shores to offshore drilling permits.

Advocacy groups in favor say drilling off South Carolina’s coast expands the country’s energy options, saving consumers money and helping the state’s economy.

“We want to become energy independent and be able to provide for ourselves and provide for the country here in America and offshore of America,” said Tim Page, executive director of Consumer Energy Alliance.

Many people demonstrating in Columbia Tuesday oppose offshore drilling, including buses of Grand Strand residents and people from other coastal communities.

They say offshore drilling in the Carolinas wouldn’t bring in more money and would hurt the environment.

“This is something that will affect our tourism, affect our fisheries (and) wildlife here, things that we really care about, even property,” said Jasmine Gil of the Coastal Conservation League.

Tuesday’s meeting was part of a 60-day public comment period which ends on March 9.

However, federal officials aren’t expected to decide whether or not to allow offshore drilling in South Carolina by then.