Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Offshore drilling opponents, joined by bipartisan group including Cunningham, rally at Monday event

Cunningham continues to drum up support for offshore drilling bill

Posted by Heath Ellison on Tue, Aug 6, 2019 at 3:16 PM

click to enlarge Offshore drilling bans have proved to be a popular issue, receiving bipartisan support in S.C. and the nation - SAMANTHA SIEGEL/OCEANA
  • Samantha Siegel/Oceana
  • Offshore drilling bans have proved to be a popular issue, receiving bipartisan support in S.C. and the nation
"Hell no" was the refrain on many peoples' minds at Monday night's Rally to Protect Our Coast. Ten state and national environmental advocacy groups hosted the public assembly to show a continued disapproval of President Trump's moves to open the Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic Oceans to offshore oil drilling.

The hosts, including Oceana, the Coastal Conservation League, and Don't Drill Lowcountry, called on residents to keep pushing until the president's plans for offshore drilling are off the table. The rally was held at the Charleston Harbor Resort in Mt. Pleasant.

"I think that this group shows the enthusiasm that is behind this," Congressman Joe Cunningham said to the group of over 200 attendees. "This group shows that people are coming together to put our shorelines, our natural resources first and protecting them for our children and our grandchildren. It shows that these issues can rise above the partisanship that exists in politics these days, and it shows how much can be done when we start working together on such issues."

click to enlarge Cunningham - U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
  • U.S. House of Representatives
  • Cunningham
Cunningham's proposed bill (H.R. 1941), introduced to the House of Representatives in March, would permanently ban offshore drilling and seismic testing near U.S. coasts.

"We will take this issue and we will bring some finality and bring some closure to it, and that's what H.R. 1941 will do," he told the audience. "It will be putting a nail in the coffin of offshore drilling of our shorelines."

One of Cunningham's most-frequented policy points during the 2018 congressional race again Katie Arrington was an opposition to offshore drilling.

"We ran a campaign about, not just saying 'no' to offshore drilling, but saying 'hell no' to offshore drilling," Cunningham recalled about the narrow race, where he won by less than 1.5 percent.

Because of Arrington's definitive early support for Trump on offshore drilling, and the noteworthy support Cunningham received from Republican mayors in coastal cities, the congressman earned upset victory, becoming the first Democrat to win in S.C.'s 1st Congressional District in over 40 years.

The Trump administration's 2017 offshore drilling executive order, which would end President Barack Obama's ban on offshore drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans, has proved unpopular with politicians from both parties.

The plan was sidelined indefinitely in April after being ruled "unlawful and invalid" by a federal judge in Alaska. But it has not been killed, prompting many environmentalists to continue to fight against it.

According to Reuters, "The 2018 proposal to open up the Atlantic, Pacific, and new parts of the Arctic oceans to offshore drilling drew vehement opposition from nearly every coastal state, mainly over environmental concerns related to potential oil spills that could spoil beaches and hurt the lucrative tourism industry."

South Carolina's Republican-controlled state Senate has also stood against offshore drilling. In April, the group of S.C. leaders moved the annual state budget through the Senate, to the House, with the provision that would block the petroleum industry from establishing pipes, refineries, or any infrastructure needed to support drilling, according to The State newspaper. The vote was passed 40-4.

Gov. Henry McMaster, who has been largely supportive of Trump, has also rebuked offshore drilling near the state's coast.

Republican State Sen. Chip Campsen from Charleston, who introduced the provision that halts drilling on the state's coastline, said that opposing offshore drilling was a quick decision for him. "When offshore drilling was first proposed, my guttural reaction was, 'There is no place on our coast that is appropriate for the level of industrialization that is necessary for offshore drilling,'" he said at the Rally to Protect Our Coast.

"We have a coast that we decided years ago, decades ago that we were going to protect," he added. "We have 55 miles of coastline from Isle of Palms to the south of Debordieu that is protected. No other state on the East Coast has that — coastal real estate protected forever."

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