2018-01-10 / State News

Support for drilling off S.C. but not coastal reps

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — There's support for the Trump administration's offshore drilling proposal among South Carolina's mostly Republican congressional delegation, but not from the ones who represent the state's coast.

The Associated Press surveyed South Carolina lawmakers last week following Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's announcement that the administration would vastly expand offshore drilling from the Atlantic to the Arctic oceans and open up federal waters off the California coast for the first time in more than three decades.

The new five-year drilling plan could open new areas of oil and gas exploration off the East Coast from Georgia to Maine, where drilling has been blocked for decades. Many lawmakers in those states support offshore drilling, although the Democratic governors of North Carolina and Virginia oppose drilling off their state coasts.

Republicans Mark Sanford and Tom Rice represent most of South Carolina's nearly 190 miles of coastline. Both are drilling critics, with Sanford noting Thursday that it "speaks very loudly" that all of the state's coastal municipalities oppose offshore energy exploration.

The only coastal pockets not represented by Sanford or Rice are in the district of South Carolina's sole congressional Democrat Jim Clyburn, who last week urged Congress to act quickly to block the expansion proposal.

Moving inland, the plan finds GOP support. Trey Gowdy, who represents the Upstate, supports moving forward, though he still says it's "critical" to take precautions to protect the environment. Joe Wilson has previously expressed support for energy exploration, and Ralph Norman, the newest member of South Carolina's delegation, said last week that he supports President Donald Trump's proposal.

Jeff Duncan, who in 2014 said "the Palmetto State is well suited to benefit from an energy boom," last week called the plan "tremendous news for American energy independence, economic development, and job creation."

The administration's plan has even drawn initial bipartisan opposition in the candidates facing off in a Jan. 16 special election contest for House District 99, near Charleston. Republican Nancy Mace, who served as a field director for Trump's presidential campaign, told the AP she is personally opposed to drilling but would consult municipalities before taking an official position as a representative, if elected. Cindy Boatwright, her Democratic opponent, told the AP last week she is "vehemently opposed to offshore drilling" and seismic testing.

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