Residents, visitors, and community leaders join hands and stand united against offshore drilling

By Lorne Chambers | Editor

There are currently more than 120 East Coast municipalities, more than 1,200 elected officials, and an alliance representing more than 41,000 businesses and 500,000 fishing families who have publicly opposed offshore drilling activities. Despite the overwhelming opposition, in late April, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that requires a review of the five-year program for oil and gas development on the Outer Continental Shelf (from 2017-2022).

“It is very concerning that the new administration is willing to completely disregard citizens’ and local communities’ input into the federal offshore drilling plan so that they can pursue their own predetermined agenda,” said Chris Carnevale of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) who last month helped organize Hands Across the Sand on Folly Beach, where hundreds gathered on at first block on Folly’s east side to join hands opposing offshore drilling in the Folly Beach community.

“The current federal offshore drilling plan was just finalized in January 2017 after more than two years of thorough analysis by the Department of the Interior, thoughtfully gathering comments from citizens, elected officials, businesses, and the military, and evaluating the appropriateness of offshore drilling in certain areas in the context of those opinions,” says Carnevale. “The new administration came in and said they are going to throw all of that work out the window and start again, which to me sounds like they are just fine with ignoring citizens, communities, and small businesses in order to grant favors to Big Oil.”

President Trump’s newly signed order also directs the administration to streamline the permitting process for seismic airgun blasting, an extremely loud and dangerous process used to search for oil and gas deposits deep below the ocean’s surface, but can be devastating to marine life and the commercial fishing industry in a region. In some areas where seismic airgun blasting has occurred, there has been a decline in commercial fishing catches by 40-80 percent for thousands of miles, according to Oceana, the largest international advocacy organization dedicated solely to ocean conservation.

In addition to being devastating for marine life, seismic airguns are the first step toward dangerous and dirty offshore drilling with associated habitat destruction, potential oil spills, and contribution to climate change and ocean acidification.

The Hands Across the Sand event held Saturday, May 20 on Folly Beach was not the first Hands Across the Sand event held here, but this year’s gathering had a bit of a different feel.

“This year’s event had a little bit different of a focus than last year’s event. Last year, we were celebrating as a community that President Obama had canceled his misguided plan to drill for oil in the Atlantic,” said Carnevale. “This year, we had to come together to fight against President Trump’s brand new proposal for Atlantic drilling, which on its face is likely more threatening than President Obama’s plan. We had great attendance at this year’s event, even larger than last year, and we were joined by some inspiring elected official VIPs.”

Among the local politicians in attendance were City of Folly Beach mayor Tim Goodwin, Town of James Island mayor Bill Woolsey, and Edisto Beach mayor Jane Energy. Also in attendance were representatives from the Surfrider Foundation, South Carolina Coastal Conservation League, Charleston Waterkeeper, and Citizens Climate Lobby.

“The most encouraging thing to see at this year’s event was how strongly the event participants rallied behind the elected officials who are taking a stand on this issue, like Mayor Tim Goodwin and Congressman Mark Sanford,” said Carnevale. “We need elected officials at all levels to stand up for protecting the coast and in turn citizens will stand up for them.”

Carnevale says there are things you can do if you want to get involved. “Everyone who loves to live here for the beach and the marsh should do these three things: 1.) sign the pledge to protect our coast at; 2) call Governor McMaster and thank him for his opposition to offshore drilling (803.734.2100); 3) call Senators Graham (843-849-3887) and Scott (843-727-4525) and ask them to oppose offshore drilling in the Atlantic. Our coast depends on it!”

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