Charleston senators buoy offshore drilling ban in state budget

The ban is supported by Gov. Henry McMaster and A.G. Alan Wilson


  • DoD photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Patrick Kelley, U.S. Coast Guard/Released
On Thursday, the South Carolina Senate voted to add an offshore drilling ban to the state's 2019-2020 budget.

The proviso prevents state funds from going to activities or infrastructure that facilitate the "exploration, development, or production of unrefined or unprocessed oil or gas."

The ban only applies to the fiscal year beginning on July 1. It bans offshore drilling in territorial waters and in the Atlantic Ocean as far as three nautical miles from the mean low-water mark of the state's coastline.

It was introduced by Charleston Sen. Chip Campsen and co-sponsored by Charleston-area Sens. Marlon Kimpson, Sandy Senn, Larry Grooms, Margie Bright Matthews, Stephen Goldfinch, and others.

In January 2018, the Trump administration announced plans to allow offshore drilling in most U.S. coastal waters after President Barack Obama had banned the practice near the end of his term. The issue has since caused a rift between the Trump administration and coastal state leaders, who argue that offshore drilling would negatively impact tourism and the environment.
Gov. Henry McMaster announced the proviso in a press conference with Campsen and state Attorney General Alan Wilson on Thursday.

"South Carolina is blessed with the most beautiful and historic coast in North America," McMaster said. "Why would we subject our $23 billion tourism industry, lucrative coastal real estate markets, invaluable historic sites, world-class resorts, abundant fisheries, and extensive protected ecosystems to the industrialization and inevitable oil spills associated with offshore drilling?"

In a campaign stop in Charleston this week, Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren vowed to sign a moratorium on offshore drilling "on day one" of her administration.

The Senate budget bill, which includes the offshore drilling ban, is expected to pass and make it to the House of Representatives. Lawmakers will meet again on Tues. April 23.

"This proviso would effectively block expansive industrialization of our entire coastline — something that is incompatible with the fragile beauty of South Carolina’s shore and our quality of life," said Laura Cantral, executive director of the Charleston-based Coastal Conservation League, in a statement. "We applaud Gov. Henry McMaster for his continued support on this important effort and Sen. Chip Campsen for leading the charge."

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