Letters to the Editor

Letter | South Carolina voters must wake up to protect our beaches

Many South Carolinians in the Myrtle Beach area, and tourists alike, have long enjoyed views of our ocean horizon- sunrises, sunsets, dolphins playing in the waves.

Enjoy it while you can because oil rigs may soon mar that natural beauty we have come to love.

The New York Times reported the Obama administration’s proposal to open up the Atlantic coast for oil and gas drilling, from Virginia to Georgia. According to the article, the Interior Department’s latest five-year plan proposes to sell federal leases for oil and gas development from 2017 to 2022. This would open the coast line of South Carolina to the very real risk of a disaster such as the one Louisiana suffered in 2010 when the BP Deepwater Horizon rig spilled more than 200 million gallons of crude oil into the gulf over a period of 87 days.

That tragedy, the worst of its kind in U.S. history, put oil on a thousand miles of beachfront and BP faces a record $13.7 billion in potential fines, some of which the company is fighting in court.

National Geographic reported on this issue in January. Bob Deans, Natural Resources Defense Council, said:

“This is risky wherever we do it.”

Environmentalists are already lining up to oppose opening up the Atlantic Ocean to the myriad ecological dangers such an endeavor would pose. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell noted that the current data on any fossil fuel resources off the Atlantic coast are more than 30 years old. She also added that any leases would need a 50- mile buffer zone to minimize impacts with offshore wind projects, recreational fishing, and wildlife habitat.

With all that is potentially at risk, you would think our legislators would be moving to protect our state’s coastlines. After all, oil befouled beaches would not draw many tourists, would they?

Unfortunately, some are pushing for that very thing.

Gov. Nikki Haley, U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham and Third Congressional District Congressman Jeff Duncan have all spoken out in favor of such measures. It seems protecting our coasts, the wildlife they foster, and South Carolina’s tourism industry, will fall largely on the state’s voters. Many in our state do not participate in the voting process, though.

This is a shame.

The best shot for South Carolinians to have their voices heard and make a change that will best benefit us is at the polls. Whether the issue is economics or the environment, everyone, not just the fossil fuel industry, deserves to have a say.

We need to be aggressive with our votes to protect our state for the future of us all. Noted broadcast journalist, Edward R. Murrow, said, “A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves.”

Let’s not be sheep. Let us be vocal in our opposition to this threat to our state, and let our representatives know how we feel.

The writer lives in Conway.