U.S. congressman-elect Joe Cunningham and one of his would-be rivals in the next election are joining forces this week.
Cunningham and state representative Nancy Mace – one of several top GOP congressional contenders – are appearing together at an event in Charleston to show their support for environmental lawsuits aimed at putting a stop to seismic testing off the coast of South Carolina.
Seismic testing is part of a renewed push by U.S. president Donald Trump’s administration to determine the amount of recoverable oil and gas reserves that might be available on the Atlantic continental shelf of the United States. Initial studies published five years ago by the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) suggested that the Atlantic shelf contained 3.3 billion barrels of recoverable oil and 31.3 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas – however those were just preliminary estimates.
Testing is necessary in order to determine precisely how much oil and gas is actually there …
Testing is not drilling, although Cunningham – elected in November to represent the coastal S.C. first congressional district (map) – is unilaterally opposed to it, as is outgoing congressman Mark Sanford and numerous other local leaders in the district.
(Click to view)
(Via: Getty Images)
U.S. president Barack Obama initially pledged to open areas fifty miles off the Atlantic coast to oil and gas exploration – but later reneged in the face of withering criticism from environmentalists. Last year, Trump made good on a campaign promise to move forward with offshore drilling on the Atlantic shelf – issuing draft authorizations for “geophysical surveys in support of hydrocarbon exploration.”
“Increased domestic energy production on federal lands and waters strengthens the nation’s security and reduces reliance on imported energy,” Trump wrote in ordering the surveys. “Moreover, low energy prices, driven by an increased American energy supply, will benefit American families and help reinvigorate American manufacturing and job growth.”
This news outlet has consistently supported both seismic testing and offshore drilling. In fact, we believe these energy sources should have been brought on line years ago. Also, it relates specifically to testing, we have criticized Palmetto politicians for seeking to shut down debate on this issue before all of the information is in hand.
“The citizens of South Carolina deserve to make an informed decision about this issue, and they’ll never be able to make such a decision if they don’t know what sort of resources are available,” we wrote last year. “If they want to reject offshore drilling at that point, fine … it’s their call … but they should at least be in possession of the facts before making such an irrevocable decision.”
There are significant economic benefits associated with offshore drilling … benefits which would likely accrue to parts of the Palmetto coast in desperate need of revitalization.[su_dominion_video_scb]
At the very least, shouldn’t we know what the pros and cons are before unilaterally rejecting the idea?
Environmentalists – including leading fiscal conservatives like state senator Tom Davis (another potential Cunningham challenger in 2020) – don’t think so. They have already made up their minds on this issue – for all of us. Not only do they oppose offshore drilling, they oppose any and all seismic testing on the dubious grounds that it would harm marine life.
Is that accurate? No.
In addition to multiple studies advanced by oil industry groups, in 2014 Obama’s BOEM – hardly a bastion of anti-environmentalism – definitively stated “there has been no documented scientific evidence of noise from air guns used in geological and geophysical seismic activities adversely affecting animal populations.”
Nonetheless, this alleged threat to marine life is the basis of the environmental lawsuits currently being embraced by elected officials like Cunningham and Mace.
“These lawsuits are one tool in our bag that we’re going to use,” Cunningham told reporter Meg Kinnard of The Associated Press.
Facts be damned.
Mace – a Trump supporter in 2016 – took an even more aggressive stance in her quotes to Kinnard, claiming the Trump administration was trying to “shove seismic testing down our throats” and that the lawsuits might be “the only way” to stop it.
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(Via: Sam Holland via S.C. House of Representatives)
Mace (above) claims the administration’s push is an example of federal overreach – even though for the last sixty-five years, federal law has been unambiguously clear in holding that state governments control coastal waters up to three miles out from their shorelines while the federal government has oversight beyond that (for up to 200 miles).
So technically, it isn’t up to South Carolina whether oil rigs are placed more than fifty miles off of its shoreline.
That decision is exclusively the purview of the federal government.
To be clear: We do not begrudge Cunningham, Davis, Sanford or Mace for aggressively opposing offshore drilling – or offshore testing. That is their prerogative, and it is clear each of these elected officials is acting in accordance with the wishes of their constituents in doing so.
We simply disagree with them … and furthermore, we believe that by embracing these specious eco-radical lawsuits they are being disingenuous in their attempts to preemptively shut down debate on this issue.
Stay tuned … we will have a follow-up report soon addressing the political implications of Mace and Cunningham appearing together in Washington, D.C., not to mention some interesting media-related tidbits as to how the story of these lawsuits was first broken.
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