Earlier this week, South Carolina Congressman Mark Sanford co-led a bipartisan sign on letter of his colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives, asking Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to uphold recently-made guidelines that temporarily bar offshore drilling off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. 109 Members of Congress signed the letter demonstrating their belief that the recently completed plan, covering the years of 2017-2022, was carried out with diligence and reflects the will of Atlantic and Pacific coast residents that many signers represent. The initial five year plan proposed by the Obama Administration called for leasing large portions of the ocean off of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, however the Atlantic leasing portion was canceled as the two+ year process of public input to create the plan–including the submission of 3.4 million comments and 13 public meetings across the country–made abundantly clear that coastal communities along the Atlantic do not want offshore drilling.
In the past few years, more than 120 local governments and thousands of businesses have requested that the federal government prevent offshore drilling off the Atlantic coast, making the point that coastal economies and quality of life would be severely jeopardized by oil spills and the industrial onshore infrastructure that accompanies offshore drilling. During this process, Congressman Sanford took the time to listen to his constituents and the communities he represents and formally came out against Atlantic offshore drilling in May 2015, flanked by many South Carolina mayors who are in agreement. Since that time, he has consistently stood up for the protection of our coast, including through the recent introduction of the Coastal Economies Protection Act (H.R. 2252), sending letters to the Department of Interior, and co-sponsoring the Atlantic Seismic Airgun Protection Act.
In spite of the clear coastal opposition to drilling off the Atlantic coast, President Trump recently signed his “America First Offshore Energy Strategy,” which directs Secretary Zinke to reconsider opening the Atlantic to offshore drilling. President Trump’s careless move risks our coastal economy and quality of life. We hope Secretary Zinke will fulfill his commitment to prioritize local opinions in his decision making process so as to not force a top-down, one-size-fits-all approach from Washington D.C.
We wish to thank Congressman Sanford and the many Members of Congress from our region who signed onto the letter, including Reps. Alma Adams (NC), G.K. Butterfield (NC), David Price (NC), John Lewis (GA), Val Demings (FL), Charlie Crist (FL), Al Lawson (FL), Darren Soto (FL), Kathy Castor (FL), Lois Frankel (FL), Alcee Hastings (FL), and Ted Deutch (FL).