State politicians from Donald Trump’s adopted party are pushing back hard on his plan to open 95% of the United States outer continental shelf to offshore oil and gas drilling.
“Ain’t gonna happen. Not on my watch!” declared South Carolina state representative Nancy Mace, a newly-elected legislator described by the Washington Post as a former Trump campaign worker and fiscal conservative who championed his tax overhaul.
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“Eight to 10 million tourists a year come down to Charleston,” she told a mid-February rally on the steps of the South Carolina capitol. “They don’t want to come to see oil drilling off the coast.”
Favouring a $20-billion-per-year industry that supports 600,000 tourism jobs over the White House quest for “energy dominance” brought Mace “a round of whistling, shouting, and fist pumps” in response to her statement, the Post reports. In 2016, Trump won South Carolina by a 14-point margin.
State-level opposition to offshore drilling kicked off the moment Trump announced it, prompting Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to cut a side deal with Florida Governor Rick Scott, a widely-touted Republican Senate candidate this fall, to exempt his state from the plan. The Post now casts Mace’s appearance as part of “a growing chorus of bipartisan opposition” to the offshore drilling plan, with the U.S. Department of the Interior holding “listening sessions” on the plan through early March. “At least a half-dozen similar rallies have taken place in other cities where sessions were held, including in New Jersey, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Oregon, and California.”
At the South Carolina capitol, Zinke “was targeted by Republicans and Democrats alike for exempting Florida from the leasing plan less than a week after it was announced,” the Post adds. “Zinke said Florida was spared because its geology is different, although he offered no scientific studies to support his claim.”
That didn’t satisfy Republican state senator Chip Campsen. “If Florida is unique, we’re more unique,” he said. “We have the most beautiful and historic coastline on the East Coast.”
While fossil lobbyists claim the plan will bring the state $2.7 billion in annual economic growth and 35,000 jobs, Campsen was more concerned about the costs. “We have a lot at stake, a lot to protect, a lot in danger,” he said. “People need to understand that if you are going to have offshore drilling, you have to industrialize a huge portion of your coast.”
“We don’t want it. We don’t need unsightly oil rigs and the smelly pipelines sprawled across our beaches and coast,” agreed Democratic state representative Robert Brown. “Why allow this dirty industry to devalue our most valuable property?”
While Trump’s plan created some unusual alliances across the aisle in South Carolina, it sowed dissension between Republicans at the state and federal level.
“Having a closed mind about offshore activities is shortsighted,” wrote U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC), in response to Mace’s public statement. “Everyone likes their gasoline and natural gas supplying industries like Alcoa and Nucor Steel—as long as it is produced elsewhere.”
“Thank you Congressman Jeff Duncan for offering your thoughts here,” Mace shot back. “However, every municipality along the coast disagrees with you.”