Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling was in Washington, D.C., this week to oppose offshore drilling and testing for oil and natural gas in the Atlantic Ocean.
Keyserling was part of a group of coastal municipal leaders in the nation's capital to meet with federal officials ahead of an updated proposal on offshore drilling expected from President Barack Obama's administration early next year.
Keyserling visited Washington on Wednesday and Thursday and met with aides to Congressman Tom Rice and U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, asking the officials to oppose siesmic testing. The testing uses loud blasts of sound from airguns to gather data about what oil reserves might be under the ocean floor.
"The testing is the first point of contact, the most likely to happen sooner and potentially the most damaging," Keyserling said. "Especially since most people believe there is very little down there off of our coast."
The Department of Interior announced a five-year plan this year to lease federal waters from Virginia to Georgia to companies to drill for oil and gas. The program would operate from 2017 until 2022.
South Carolina's coastal communities -- including Beaufort -- have opposed the plan and drilling's precursor, seismic testing.
Beaufort is fighitng a S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control determination that a permit application from Spectrum Geo to begin seismic testing is consistent with the state's Coastal Zone Management Program. The city has asked for a hearing on the decision in S.C. Administrative Law Court.
The final decision on federal siesmic testing permits will be made by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which is currently accepting public comment.
Keyserling said testing and drilling will affect marine life and the area's tourist economy and that the risk is too big for what some believe will be a small amount of oil and gas.