Thursday, February 01, 2018

The Southern Revolt Against Offshore Oil Drilling

..The Collinses are part of an eclectic group of South Carolina coastal residents—business owners, citizens' groups, activists, and legislators—who, regardless of party affiliation, are rallying against the Trump administration's intensifying efforts to open the Atlantic up for oil and gas extraction. They worry that offshore drilling and its accompanying onshore infrastructure will wreak environmental and economic havoc, turning their largely undeveloped coastline into the East Coast version of Louisiana's Port Fourchon, home to the biggest oil terminal in North America. Together, these disparate voices form an ad hoc but politically potent coalition that could serve as a model for other coastal states grappling with how best to protect their shores during the Trump administration. CAROLINIANS FIRST BEGAN paying close attention to the prospect of oil drilling in the Atlantic in late 2013, when then-mayor Dean Lambeth of Kure Beach, North Carolina, signed a letter to the federal government's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) in support of seismic testing. It turned out the letter was drafted by a lobbying group for the American Petroleum Institute. Some 300 Kure Beach citizens crowded a town hall meeting to voice their disapproval. A month later and three miles up the road, the town council of Carolina Beach passed a resolution against seismic testing. Caswell Beach and other coastal towns in North and South Carolina soon followed suit. Opposition to drilling swelled on the East Coast in 2015, when President Barack Obama included the Atlantic in a draft five-year plan for oil and gas development. Though the proposal attracted Republican support—including from then-South Carolina governor Nikki Haley—every local government on the South Carolina coast objected. Obama removed the Atlantic from the plan in 2016 and rejected pending seismic-testing permits just before leaving office. Then, just a few months into his presidency, Donald Trump signed an executive order directing Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to review Obama's BOEM plan and encourage offshore energy production. A week later, Zinke ordered the fast-track review of at least five pending permits for seismic testing. In response, 150 East Coast municipalities and more than 1,200 local, state, and federal officials wrote resolutions and sent letters to the BOEM in opposition to testing and drilling; an alliance of more than 41,000 businesses and 500,000 fishing families from Maine to Florida announced its objection; and governors from North and South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, and Delaware came out against drilling in the Atlantic...more

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