Grand Strand mayors push against offshore drilling

(Image Source: City of Myrtle Beach)

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) – Several Grand Strand mayors met in Myrtle Beach Thursday to discuss their opposition to an Executive Order from President Trump. The order could eventually open millions of coastal acres to offshore oil and gas drilling.

Leaders are against the drilling, saying the costs of potential problems outweigh the benefits. The mayors were outspoken against the drilling for oil off the Carolina coast.

They argue our economy relies on the beaches and we can’t afford an oil spill or accident.

“We got pristine beaches here, we’ve got pristine estuaries and we need to keep them that way,” says Georgetown Mayor Jack Scoville.

Nearly 17 million people visit the beaches along the Grand Strand each year, bringing in millions of tourist dollars.

“Tourism is our only industry,” says Myrtle Beach Mayor John Rhodes. “Why in the world would we support something that has the potential to disrupt that? How can we forget what happened in the Gulf of Mexico?”

The BP oil spill in 2010 hammered the tourism industry along the Gulf Coast, and a local real estate broker says impacts were felt even into the Carolinas.

“We actually got a lot more traffic and visitors at our rentals here on the Grand Strand because even where beaches weren’t affected down there, they lost business,” explains real estate agent Sandra Bundy.

Leaders say 39,000 jobs are created by the tourism industry on the Grand Strand and argue if a major leak happened it would derail the economy for years to come.

“Speculative offshore drilling could possibly ruin those 39,000 jobs,” predicts North Myrtle Beach Mayor Marilyn Hatley.

Others argue offshore drilling would bring jobs to the Grand Strand. The American Petroleum Institute issued a statement saying:

“Employment due to offshore oil and gas development activities on the Atlantic Coast in South Carolina is expected to reach over 35,000 jobs in 2035, with direct employment of 11,000 jobs and indirect and induced employment of over 24,000 jobs.”

Mayor Hatley argues many of those jobs will not help residents of the Grand Strand.

“Those jobs will be brought in, people will be brought in because we don’t have the experience of offshore drilling here in Horry County, so as far as helping the residents, I don’t think you’re going to see much benefit at all,” states Mayor Hatley.

The mayors at Thursday’s meeting encourage people to voice their opinions on offshore drilling to South Carolina’s congressmen and senators as they continue to fight against it.