The non-partisan Grand Strand grassroots group SODA (Stop Offshore Drilling in the Atlantic) has endorsed Democrat Mal Hyman in the race for the 7th Congressional District for his strong opposition to offshore drilling and seismic testing. The group also supports Republican Rep. Mark Sanford in his re-election bid for the 1st Congressional District for his leadership in Congress to stop drilling and testing in the Atlantic.
Since 2015, the Horry County Democratic Party has adopted several strong resolutions against offshore drilling and exploration.
“We need representatives in Washington who will actively help us in this fight”, said retired Presbyterian minister Jim Watkins, a leader of SODA. “Congressman Rice did nothing to help SODA, the people of his District, and Rep. Sanford as we all worked against offshore oil drilling and seismic testing.”
“We met with Mal,” said Watkins. “He told us he will work with us to oppose future attempts to approve offshore drilling, and will join us in our fight against seismic testing. In his opinion, the push for oil and gas drilling off South Carolina’s coast risks human health, the beautiful beaches, and tens of thousands of jobs.”
Watkins said the continued push to do seismic testing in waters three to 200 miles off S.C’s shores “is the first step to try to renew the push for drilling. Mal knows there is NO need to do exploration unless you intend to drill. They go hand in hand.”
Hyman, a Coker College professor since 1986, has never run for public office, something Watkins called “refreshing.” Hyman and his family live in Hartsville.
In March, South Carolina’s Atlantic waters were taken out of a pending plan for drilling, a decision which SODA and many South Carolinians, including all coastal mayors, desperately fought to achieve. Rep. Sanford helped lead the opposition to offshore drilling without help from Rice.
That decision by the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) was made despite a years long push by the gas and oil industry. However, the decision did not stop the awarding of permits for seismic testing.
On July 13 this year, Rice voted against an amendment to prohibit seismic testing in the Atlantic waters, including off South Carolina. The amendment was sponsored by Rep. Sanford and other House members on the Department of Interior funding bill, and failed. Rice has been and continues to be a strong advocate for testing.
In the latest action, Rep. Sanford and other Atlantic Seaboard Members of Congress have introduced the Atlantic Seismic Airgun Protection Act, which would again attempt to eliminate testing. Rep. Rice is not a cosponsor.
A recent Charleston Post and Courier editorial carried a headline saying “Seismic tests bad for business.” The Mayors of Myrtle Beach and Georgetown, and the entire Surfside Beach Town Council have sent letters to DOI saying testing will hurt the local economy and environment. Major fishery associations have told DOI the testing will hurt their industry. Sanford and Rice are S.C.’s only coastal House members.