U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford went on record Monday against seismic testing and drilling for oil and natural gas off the South Carolina coast. Sanford, a staunch conservationist, issued a statement saying he opposes testing because the results won’t be shared with the state and local residents to make informed decisions about the benefits and disadvantages of drilling.
Sanford released a letter he wrote to the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management asking the agency not to allow offshore testing. Federal officials are considering what topics to study in an environmental impact statement on offshore drilling, and the agency last month wrapped up a public comment period on the question. At the time Sanford told The Associated Press he saw no problem with exploring to at least see how much oil and natural gas might be offshore.
But he said Monday that under the current system, state officials would not have access to the results of seismic tests, which will be conducted for oil companies, before the federal government approves drilling leases. “In my view, it makes little sense to even conduct tests when the states and regions affected will have no say in the process,” Sanford said. “I had initially been intrigued by a new round of seismic testing,” Sanford wrote in his a letter to Geoffrey Wikel of Ocean and Energy Management’s Office of Environmental Programs.
“My feeling was that with these results South Carolina would be able to do a cost-benefit analysis of whether drilling was worthwhile,” he wrote. But without access to the seismic data, he wrote, “South Carolina would be on the outside looking in.” Sanford, one of South Carolina two coastal congressmen, represents the state’s south coast. Tom Rice, whose district on the north coast includes Myrtle Beach, favors oil exploration.
“I don’t know how you can make an intelligent decision about what you’re going to do if you don’t know what’s there,” Rice told the AP last month. But he says states must have a say in where drilling is allowed. A total of 21 communities in the Carolinas, including Charleston, are on record opposing offshore seismic testing or drilling. –