Politics & Government

SC, groups want seismic testing halted as offshore drilling case moves through courts

Is offshore drilling good for SC? McMaster weighs in

SC Gov. Henry McMaster said he is against drilling and seismic testing off the state’s shores and plans to take appropriate steps.
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SC Gov. Henry McMaster said he is against drilling and seismic testing off the state’s shores and plans to take appropriate steps.

Days after S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson visited the Lowcountry to decry offshore drilling, the S.C. Environmental Law Project and 16 cities statewide have filed to stop seismic testing off the coast of South Carolina while a lawsuit contesting the practice moves through the courts.

In the motion for an injunction filed in federal District Court in Charleston, the group says seismic testing — done by shooting loud airgun blasts beneath the surface to locate oil and gas reserves — will “cause irreparable harm and is contrary to the public interest.”

“Moving forward with explorations will have grave consequences for our beloved coastal ecosystems,” SCELP wrote in a news release. “Which is why SCELP has asked Judge Richard Gergel to block companies from initiating seismic tests ... .”

The original case, filed Dec. 11, says President Donald Trump’s offshore drilling initiatives violate federal laws protecting marine life.

That suit is backed by Wilson, Republican Gov. Henry McMaster and South Carolina municipalities including Hilton Head Island, Bluffton, Port Royal and Beaufort.

“As Mayor, I recognize the value of our military and retirement community, and our attraction as a tourist destination, which will be put at risk by the proposed seismic blasting activities,” Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling said in a news release about the injunction.

An oil industry report released in November said tapping oil and gas reserves could be worth $1.5 billion in tax revenue for South Carolina over the next 20 years, according to previous Island Packet reporting.

On Monday, Wilson told members of the Hilton Head Island- Bluffton Chamber of Commerce that offshore drilling, although far beyond the horizon, would still affect the aesthetics of the state’s coastline.

“Before we even get to the environmental impacts … look at what it could cost us (in terms of tourism dollars),” Wilson said.

He said if offshore drilling goes wrong, it could have “catastrophic and cataclysmic” effects on the coast, and South Carolina would be hard-pressed to find land onshore to house drilling infrastructure because of the state’s expansive network of protected lands and commercial development.

Wilson said Monday the fight will likely end up in the Supreme Court.

Katherine Kokal moved to South Carolina in 2018 after graduating from the University of Missouri and loves everything about the Lowcountry that isn’t a Palmetto Bug. She has won South Carolina Press Association awards for in-depth and government beat reporting. On the weekends, you can find Kati doing yoga and hiking Pinckney Island.