Grand Strand leaders, environmentalists respond to support for offshore drilling

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) –  City leaders and environmentalists along the Grand Strand have responded to a local state senator who recently praised the benefits of offshore drilling.

Senator Stephen Goldfinch appeared before the Energy and Minerals House Subcommittee in Washington D.C. on Wednesday. He said offshore drilling off our coast could bring significant economic benefits, but Myrtle Beach city leaders continue to oppose it.

“We’ve got fishing. We’ve got tourism. The Atlantic Ocean really is our greatest natural resource here we want to make sure we protect it,” said Myrtle Beach spokesperson Mark Kruea. He thinks the risk is much greater than the potential reward. “One spill – look at the Gulf Coast – one spill could ruin so much that we have right now that supports the rest of the state.”

Peg Howell, spokesperson for Stop Offshore Drilling in the Atlantic, agreed.“It’s not a very wise decision to take something that’s extremely risky against our proven tourism economy as well as our fishing, recreational fishing economy.”

Goldfinch wrote lawmakers in Washington say that South Carolina could gain almost $4 billion from drilling over the next 20 years. “There’s all kinds of economic benefits,” he said. “The industry projects somewhere around 2035 we could have upwards of 35 thousand jobs.” The District 34 Senator said those jobs would benefit people living in Horry and Georgetown Counties. “Andrews has a poverty rate of 58 percent. Conway has a poverty rate for children 18 and under of 50 percent. That’s terrible. There are the kinds of people that could benefit from offshore natural gas drilling.”

Howell refuted Goldfinch’s employment projections, and said local residents wouldn’t benefit. “The people who come to work offshore are not local citizens. The people who work in the oil industry are nomads. You go where the opportunity is.”