Lowcountry mayors respond to executive order on offshore drilling

Isle of Palms Mayor Dick Cronin (Source: Live 5)
Isle of Palms Mayor Dick Cronin (Source: Live 5)
Edisto Island Mayor Jane Darby (Source: Live 5)
Edisto Island Mayor Jane Darby (Source: Live 5)
Sullivan's Island Mayor Pat O'Neil (Source: Live 5)
Sullivan's Island Mayor Pat O'Neil (Source: Live 5)

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Four Lowcountry mayors responded to President Donald Trump's expected executive order on offshore drilling locations.

Isle of Palms Mayor Dick Cronin, Sullivan's Island Mayor Pat O'Neil and Edisto Beach Mayor Jane Darby joined Tecklenburg at the Charleston Maritime Center for the Friday afternoon news conference.

Tecklenburg said he and some 120 other mayors last year banded together to take a stand against offshore drilling, and as a result of that effort and other similar efforts, the Obama Administration issued an executive order to ban it.

"I can't believe that the Trump Administration has turned right around and is now lifting that ban in a place where offshore drilling, folks, is just not appropriate," Tecklenburg said.

President Trump is expected to sign that order aimed at reducing reliance on foreign oil and creating jobs, but environmental activists say offshore drilling harms wildlife and speeds up global warming.

The order will reportedly direct the Department of Interior to review locations for offshore oil and gas exploration and consider selling drilling rights in previously protected waters, including South Carolina's.

Mayor Tecklenburg has been a vocal opponent of offshore drilling near the Atlantic Coast. He said South Carolina does not have the industrial waterfront to handle offshore drilling.

"If they were to successfully drill offshore and recover millions and millions of gallons of oil, crude oil, where does it go?" he said. "It would have to come onshore, and then it would have to stored and refined, and we don't have those kinds of facilities here in South Carolina."

Tecklenburg said it was ironic that he, a former oil distributor, would now be speaking out against offshore drilling, but he said the small amount of industrial waterfront property is dedicated to port operations.

He said the impact of handling, transfer, refining and processing of oil products in the state would be damaging to both the state's ecology and economy.

"Tourism is such an important part of all our lives here in the Lowcountry," Cronin said. "One in 10 jobs, it's a $20 billion industry in South Carolina, but it's on the coast."

Cronin said tourism is the largest single industry in South Carolina and asked if we can afford to put any of that in peril.

"I represent a small barrier island," he said. "Yet we take on, any month in the summer, a million vehicles come and go off of our island, full of people coming to enjoy our pristine beaches. That beach has to be kept pristine, the environment has to be kept clean for their enjoyment, not only now, but for future generations."

Cronin praised Congressman Mark Sanford for filing a coastal economies protection act as a result of learning of Trump's plan to sign the order.

Darby said Edisto Beach's economy is based totally on tourism, Eco-tourism and the businesses needed to support tourism.

"Any negative impact to our ACE Basin, Botany Bay Wildlife Center, or any of our other important environmental structures on Edisto would be detrimental to our economy," she said. "While I can applaud President Trump's initiative to create jobs, I have to implore him not to sacrifice our jobs by creating jobs within the oil industry."

O'Neil said other potential victims of seismic testing and offshore drilling would be marine life.

"There's a great consensus among marine scientists that this activity will have a great impact on marine life in the ocean," he said. "It can disrupt their ability to navigate, it can disrupt their ability to find food, it can disrupt their ability to mate. That doesn't leave much, does it?"

O'Neil said he grew up in South Louisiana during the heyday of offshore exploration and drilling, saying he saw the both the good and bad that came from it.

"Less than a year ago, or about a year ago, we were celebrating a victory, having found that even though you can't fight City Hall, if you have enough City Halls you can take on the White House," he said. "It feels a little bit like 'Groundhog Day,' we're going to have to do it all over again, but I certainly hope we'll have the same result this time."

Tecklenburg called on people to call on Gov. Henry McMaster and Congress and express their concerns about offshore drilling off the South Carolina coast.

"Oil and water do not mix in South Carolina," Tecklenburg said.

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