Environmentalists disappointed offshore drilling ban doesn’t extend to SC coast

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) – Conservation groups in our area are voicing their concerns that the Carolina coast was not included in a federal ban of offshore drilling in parts of the Arctic and Atlantic oceans.

President Obama enacted the new measures this week; the permanent drilling ban applies to portions of the Atlantic Ocean floor from Virginia to Massachusetts.

Groups like Stop Offshore Drilling in the Atlantic (SODA) have been working for years to get a ban enacted.  They said are very disappointed by the president’s decision.

“When we heard everything south of the Virginia-North Carolina border was excluded, we were very sad,” said Pam Howell of SODA.

The ban was put in place to help prevent environmental disasters like the BP Oil Spill, but Howell said because it didn’t cover all of the Atlantic, it’s a blow to local groups who have worked to stop oil and gas development off the coast.

Howell said the risk of an oil spill isn’t the only reason she’s against offshore drilling.

“It is not economically viable to bring in that industry for jobs that will go to people from elsewhere, not our local residents,” said Howell.

“Offshore drilling is not good for the coast of South Carolina,” said Myrtle Beach Mayor John Rhodes.

Mayor Rhodes agreed offshore drilling could have a negative economic impact.

“We depend on tourism we don’t want to see something that happened in the Gulf of Mexico that ruined their tourism for about four years,” said Rhodes.

Drilling still can’t happen in our part of the Atlantic for five years, but there is concern the next administration may reverse even that.

The American Petroleum Institute said the waters off the Carolina coast are believed to be rich in oil and gas reserves; and would like to see the coasts opened up for development.

They released a statement, “fortunately, there is no such thing as a permanent ban, and we look forward to working with the new administration on fulfilling the will of American voters on energy production.”

“What it means for us is a heck of a lot more fighting to protect this very important place both economically and environmentally,” said Howell.

Howell said she will team up with others to make sure offshore drilling isn’t in the Grand Strand’s future.

“You only get one chance to get this right and we really need to get everyone involved to protect this valuable coast,” said Howell.

Howell said she plans on meeting with local politicians and business leaders in January to discuss ways to prevent offshore drilling from coming to South Carolina.

Count on News13 to keep you covered.