South Carolina Environmental Law Project

Lawyers for the Wild Side of South Carolina

Environmental groups file lawsuit against potential offshore drilling in the Lowcountry
December 12th, 2018

By Jackson Kurz

BEAUFORT, S.C. — Offshore drilling is still a major concern in the Lowcountry, and now, local groups are trying to make sure it never happens.

The South Carolina Environmental Law Project (SCELP) field a federal lawsuit on behalf of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce and 16 cities, including Hilton Head, Bluffton, Beaufort, and Port Royal.

The lawsuit filed in federal district court says offshore drilling would harass hundreds of thousands of marine animals in the area, especially whales and dolphins.

SCELP and their backers say drilling would not only impact animals but the people who live here too.

They say lawmakers are not even certain there is oil in the area. So why drill? Many against the drilling say it's for the lawmakers in charge to profit from special interest groups.

This lawsuit was one of two suits filed Tuesday, both saying how drilling would negatively affect many in the area - fishermen, small business owners, and visitors.

One of the issues is the seismic testing needing to find oil offshore.

The testing consists of blasts in the ocean, which can be louder than a rocket taking off.

"I can tell you that seismic testing and offshore drilling is a net loser when it comes to tax money, because when the tourists don't show up, when all those jobs disappear, both the local government and the state government will lose money and then will have to reinvest money to clean the mess up they created," said Frank Knapp, president of SC Small Business Chamber Commerce.

This authorization for offshore drilling was one of five issued by the Trump administration, which aims to find oil and gas underneath the Atlantic Ocean from Delaware to Florida.

The final step before seismic testing can commence will be the issuance of permits by the Bureau of Ocean and Energy Management.

Many opponents of the drilling say they'll do anything to keep their homes and communities, the way they are.

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