Right up front, it is important to know I support President Donald Trump.
I had a leadership role in his South Carolina campaign, I believe in his agenda, and I will support his reelection.
But I also support the coast when it comes to oil drilling in the Atlantic Ocean.
The people who elected me to South Carolina’s House District 99 in the Charleston area are vociferously opposed to oil drilling and the seismic testing that precedes it. They believe — and I concur — that seismic testing and oil drilling jeopardize a coastal economy that relies on clean beaches and inviting water.
We have both in abundance in South Carolina. We shouldn’t put our shoreline at risk.
Interior Secretary David Bernhardt has put the administration’s drilling plans on hold for now. I urge the administration to make this pause permanent and to listen to its citizens, the mayors and the business owners who all say oil drilling is neither wanted nor needed off our coast.
I listened, and so did many of my colleagues in the state House of Representatives. We joined the state Senate and Gov. Henry McMaster in supporting a new year-long ban on drilling infrastructure on our shores and in our state waters. We’re hoping to pass a permanent ban in 2020.
Widespread, bipartisan opposition to drilling
The vote was an easy one because oil drilling is so unpopular among coastal South Carolina mayors. The coastal tourism industry in South Carolina supports more than 60,000 workers who take home over $1 billion in wages a year, according to a 2015 study.
The state as a whole generated more than $22 billion from tourism in 2017. That’s an increase of over 6% from the previous year. Our hotel visits have seen better growth than the regional and the national averages.
The numbers clearly show that each year, more and more people come to our state to take advantage of its beauty, especially along the Atlantic Coast.
I am particularly sensitive to the concerns of tourism workers, not just as a state representative but as a businesswoman myself. We can’t afford a hit to our economy that would surely come from an oil spill. The areas I represent — Charleston, Daniel Island, Hanahan and Mount Pleasant — have too much to lose and too little to gain from this push to drill off the coast.
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The arguments from the oil industry that this could be an economic boon are unconvincing. The East Coast tourism industry is already booming. Atlantic states including South Carolina are setting records for tourism and reaping the financial benefits.
I’m a conservative Republican against drilling
So when a lawsuit was filed in December to challenge the seismic testing that precedes oil drilling, I publicly stood, as a conservative Republican, in support of the effort. But I am far from alone.
You’ll find few Republican governors more appreciative of President Trump than our own Gov. McMaster. As lieutenant governor, he was one of Trump’s earliest and most vocal supporters. As president, Trump returned the favor and supported McMaster’s campaign to win the governor’s race in South Carolina. Yet Gov. McMaster also opposes oil exploration off our coast.
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Our state’s Republican attorney general, Alan Wilson, has thrown his support behind the legal efforts to stop seismic testing. Nine other East Coast attorneys general, and 13 of the 14 East Coast governors — including six Republican governors — are on the record opposing seismic testing and oil drilling.
In short, the states that have the most at stake from offshore drilling have decided it is not worth the risk. Additionally, the United States is a net exporter of oil. Then there is the whole Permian Basin discovery in New Mexico and Texas, called the “largest discovery on the planet.” The U.S. and South Carolina economies will be just fine.
Therefore, I now respectfully ask that the administration support my state and federal colleagues, and the voters who elected us, and remove the Atlantic Ocean from consideration.
State Rep. Nancy Mace, a Republican, represents South Carolina’s House District 99. She is a mother, a real estate agent, and the first woman to graduate from The Citadel, a military college. Follow her on Twitter @NancyMace.