More than 400 South Carolina businesses delivered a letter to Governor Nikki Haley on Wednesday, asking her to call for the removal of all waters off South Carolina’s coast from consideration for offshore drilling. The letter was delivered to her office in the state capitol by a handful of small business owners, and was received by Governor Haley’s Chief of Staff, Swati Patel, with whom the business owners met briefly to discuss the issue.
While the businesses acknowledge that Governor Haley has taken some great steps forward in bringing economic development to South Carolina, they say the governor is jeopardizing the state’s forward momentum by standing by as the risky proposition of offshore drilling looms large. The businesses oppose drilling off South Carolina’s coast because it would threaten the booming coastal economy, particularly the coastal tourism industry which employs more than 80,000 South Carolinians and generates $7 billion dollars each year. Specifically, the businesses asked Governor Haley to call for the removal of the Mid- and South Atlantic Planning Areas, including all waters off the coast of South Carolina, from consideration for offshore drilling.
Preceding the letter delivery, business leaders hosted a press conference in the State House lobby during which business owners and business associations spoke of the need to protect South Carolina’s coast from the impacts of offshore drilling. Robert Barber, owner of Bowen’s Island Restaurant, an iconic spot for oyster roasts in the Lowcountry, talked about the need to protect clean water and healthy waterways for our culinary tradition of oysters and shrimp. Rick Baumann, founder of Murrels Inlet Seafood, pointed out how much the Gulf of Mexico seafood businesses are suffering even five years after the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010, which has affected seafood availability and prices worldwide, and cautioned against welcoming a similar risk to our coast. Sandra Bundy, a real estate broker with B&P, Inc., which operates in the Grand Strand and Pee Dee markets, talked about how the boom in real estate in the Grand Strand was largely responsible for the region’s recovery from the recession, but could be threatened by impacts from the offshore drilling industry.
Peg Howell, a former petroleum engineer in the Gulf who now owns Howell Consulting Group, noted that businesses often choose to locate to an area such as the Grand Strand for quality of life. For those businesses, especially the 16+ million home-based businesses located in the U.S., offshore drilling could diminish the desirability of living along our coast and slow the flow of in-migrants from other states. Kathie Livingston, board member of the SC Nature-Based Tourism and Paddlesports Industries Associations and owner of Nature Adventures Outfitters, noted the necessity of keeping South Carolina’s waters, especially around Cape Romain, clean and healthy, to grow the $1 billion nature-based tourism industry, like birding, fishing, and paddling. Frank Knapp, President and CEO of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce, highlighted that the offshore drilling industry and the type of development it brings is simply incompatible with the economy and sense of place that South Carolina’s coastal small businesses generally wish to cultivate.
The business opposition to offshore drilling joins the opposition by the 23+ local governments in South Carolina that have passed resolutions opposing offshore drilling and/or seismic testing as well as South Carolina’s coastal Congressional delegates, Reps. Mark Sanford and Tom Rice. Additional businesses are encouraged to sign onto the opposition letter go Governor Haley at http://bit.ly/sc-biz-drilling-letter.