Bob Bestler

Kudos to these South Carolina politicians for joining the fight against offshore drilling

Bob Bestler, a contributing columnist for The Sun News
Bob Bestler, a contributing columnist for The Sun News jlee@thesunnews

Like most everyone living in this corner of the world, my wife and I love the ocean.

When we moved south about 30 years ago, we considered transplanting to the mountains, but gave in to the stronger pull of the Atlantic Ocean — its beauty, its power, its mysteries that lay deep beneath the surface.

We’ve spent countless hour walking the beaches, riding the waves. I’ve never fished, but I’ve eaten enough shrimp, grouper and flounder to appreciate the importance of keeping ocean waters clean — for us and for their inhabitants.

And like so many, I’ve been troubled by the decision by the Trump administration to open the Atlantic to oil drilling.

I once thought I opposed drilling off our coast for fear of an oil spill. The 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico remains fresh in our minds. Eleven riggers dead and 40 million gallons of oil spilled during the 87 days it took to cap the well. The toll on fish and birds and other wildlife as well as Gulf state shorelines was immeasurable.

Reason enough to oppose oil drilling off our beautiful beaches, but there are really more immediate reasons to oppose offshore oil drilling.

Oceana, an international foundation established to protect all oceans, has spelled out the damage caused by the seismic testing needed in exploring for new wells.

“Seismic guns are used to find oil and gas underneath the ocean floor. Air guns are so loud that they disturb, injure or kill marine life, and disrupt coastal economies. These blasts are repeated every 10 seconds, 24 hours a day, for days and weeks at a time.

“Seismic air gun testing currently being proposed for the Atlantic could injure 138,000 whales and dolphins and disturb millions more, according to government figures.’‘

It’s a major reason newly elected Rep. Joe Cunningham of Charleston is planning to introduce legislation to impose a 10-year ban.

Cunningham said his bill has the support of 16 coastal South Carolina communities, including North Myrtle Beach and Briarcliffe Acres. Myrtle Beach is on record opposing oil drilling.

Speaking as a former ocean engineer, Cunningham discussed the impact of “reprehensible” seismic testing:

“Because blasts have to be loud enough to travel miles down into the ocean floor and back up to the ship, their noise can be heard 2,500 miles from the source . . . Since marine life depends on sound to communicate and navigate, such manmade noise can disrupt basic functions needed for survival.’‘

This week S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson said he would join a lawsuit against administration plans to open the Atlantic Ocean to oil and gas exploration. He joins nine conservation groups and 16 coastal communities that have sued the federal government, including North Myrtle Beach and Briarcliffe Acres. Myrtle Beach has also opposed oil drilling off the coast.

Cunningham, a former ocean engineer whose major campaign issue was stopping offshore drilling, said his bill would be his first as a member of Congress.

Calling seismic testing “reprehensible,” he wrote: “I look forward to fighting the administration’s reckless decision to proceed down the path to Atlantic drilling. Our coastline and livelihoods depend upon it.”

A lot of us are behind you, Congressman.

Contact Bob Bestler at