Editor’s note: In related news, Myrtle Beach City Council may vote on a resolution concerning seismic testing at 2 p.m. Tuesday.
Imagine the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill occurring off the beaches of North Myrtle Beach. Or consider a pipeline break similar to the recent break in Santa Barbara, California defiling our shoreline.
Confident it won’t happen here? The process is already in motion. Though still somewhat under the radar of the general public, state and federal governments have already begun operations that put our beaches at risk of oil spills.
South Carolina is one of four Atlantic coast states recently opened to offshore exploration for oil and gas, and the first permits for aerial discovery have recently been awarded. Seismic testing could begin as early as next year.
What’s worse, this process is proceeding despite substantial, proven risks associated with deepwater rigs and pipelines, and the lack of evidence of any real benefit to South Carolina, or North Myrtle Beach.
At risk is not only the beauty of our beaches and health of our wildlife, but the tourism economy that depends on them. Fourteen million annual visitors to Horry County bring $6.5 billion in revenue, according to a 2011 review by the city manager for the North Myrtle Beach Citizens Association. Much of that income would certainly disappear if our beaches and fishing were devastated by an oil spill.
And, contrary to oil industry claims, offshore drilling is not safer than it was in 2010. According to the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, in the four years following the Gulf spill (2011-2014), offshore drilling activities caused over 1,000 injuries, nearly 500 fires and explosions, 11 spills of over 2,100 gallons of oil and 11 fatalities.
Proponents of offshore drilling claim that offshore rigs will bring jobs, revenue sharing, and lower-priced gasoline to our region. These are all myths. Experience in previous drilling locations demonstrates that the experts who build and staff the rigs do not move to the region. They are itinerant workers and where they call home is unrelated to the location of the job.
And while four Gulf states receive limited revenue sharing for coastal conservation, restoration and hurricane protection, that will soon expire, and the administration has said it will not share oil-leasing revenues with the four Atlantic states.
Finally, as demonstrated by the experience of existing drilling locales, oil from the Atlantic will not reduce local gas prices. Oil prices are set by the world market and most of what the U.S. produces is already shipped overseas.
A grass roots group is organizing to raise awareness and prevent offshore drilling. It’s called SODA (Stop Offshore Drilling in the Atlantic).
On their website (www.sodapopsc.com) you can sign a petition urging Gov. Nikki Haley to ask the Obama Administration to take South Carolina out of the five-year plan for drilling in the Atlantic Ocean.
Another way to follow and support SODA is through their Facebook page: Stop Offshore Drilling in the Atlantic - SODA.
And please contact your public officials at all levels of government to let them know you are against risking our beaches by drilling for oil and gas.
South Carolina is a land of abundant sunshine and offshore wind. These are the energy sources we should develop instead of risking our greatest resource - the ocean.
The writers live in North Myrtle Beach.