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Sonic cannons: Is offshore drilling next?

Conservation Voters,

On Friday, the federal government announced its approval for use of sonic cannons to search for oil and gas in the Atlantic Ocean, from Delaware to Florida. Sonic cannons blast loud noises underwater, disturbing marine mammals, including the endangered North American Right Whale. This method of exploration has serious impacts, and it is the first step to drilling off our coast.

Past projections indicate too little oil and gas, too much risk and too little benefit for South Carolinians. We have serious concerns about the use of sonic cannons in our waters despite the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s (BOEM) “mitigation measures.” The fact that BOEM will not share the results of the studies compounds our misgivings. This process is as opaque as our waters will be if there’s drilling offshore.

Regardless of the results, the fundamental geology of our coastline suggests that offshore oil and gas would be a drop in the bucket, especially with our country’s exploding natural gas production. These are global commodities, and any oil or gas produced off our coast would not lead to lower energy costs here.

We urge Governor Haley to reject the “drill, baby, drill” rhetoric of the past. We disagree with her assessment that drilling could be a “tremendous boon to South Carolina.” Instead, we ask state leaders to support clean energy policies that bring jobs and lower power bills, without the risks that we saw so vividly in the BP Gulf Oil disaster. We cannot turn our coast into an industrial zone for oil companies’ profits and federal government royalties. Converting McClellanville, Pawleys Island, or Beaufort into a home for large refineries and industrial-scale natural gas infrastructure would imperil the tourism and fishing industries that sustain these special places.

Stay tuned. We’ll be following this issue closely in the months to come.

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