South Carolina aims to bar offshore drilling with budget proposal

South Carolina’s Republican-majority Senate advanced a measure on Wednesday that would require the state to block new infrastructure to transport or process offshore oil and gas as state lawmakers fear the Interior Department will open the Atlantic coast to offshore drilling.

Republican State Senator Chip Campsen introduced a provision to the state budget that prohibits the state from approving any activity that would facilitate drilling offshore. This would effectively kill plans to drill off South Carolina’s coastline even if it is included in Interior’s Outer Continental Shelf leasing plan, which is due to be released in the coming weeks.

“The federal government must respect and not infringe upon state’s wishes and authority,” Campsen said. “We don’t want South Carolina’s pristine coastline to be turned into an industrial wasteland.”

The South Carolina proposal is the latest action taken by a coastal state government against offshore drilling ahead of the release by the Interior Department of the 2019-2024 Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Oil and Gas Leasing proposal.

Since 2018, six states passed legislation or amendments to restrict offshore drilling. Earlier this month, Georgia’s House of Representatives passed a bill opposing offshore drilling.

Governors, senators and congressmen from coastal states ranging from Maine to Georgia to Florida have urged newly confirmed Interior Secretary David Bernhardt to leave their states out of the plan but have not gotten any assurances from him.

The states only control their waters up to 3 miles (5 km) out from the coast, leaving areas further out under federal control.

The South Carolina measure targets permitting of pipelines, refineries, rigs and other infrastructure needed to process or move oil and gas onshore.

With five weeks left in session for the state legislature this year, Campsen said it was necessary to move legislation ahead of the release of the OCS plan and before companies seeking seismic testing permits in the Atlantic from Interior could receive a green light, which may happen in the coming days.

Campsen said the proposal has support from Governor Henry McMaster, an ally of President Donald Trump, the Republican attorney general and has 33 co-sponsors from both parties in the 46-member state Senate.

The Senate passed the budget containing this measure 40-4. The House still needs to approve it.

“Why would we subject our $23 billion tourism industry… to the industrialization and inevitable oil spills associated with offshore drilling? It makes no sense,” Campsen said.