Charleston City Council votes to oppose offshore drilling

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- Charleston's city council voted Tuesday night 7-5 to oppose offshore drilling.

The vote came after a failed motion to defer the vote for another week.

"Not only are our economies largely based on the vitality of our coastal resources, but culturally, we identify with our coastal heritage," Charleston Mayor Joe Riley said in formal comments to the Bureau of Ocean and Energy Management.

"The vitality of aquatic ecosystems and the beauty of our region is non-negotiable for our fishers, shrimpers, and crabbers, our tourists, and our coastal residents' way of life. Furthermore, given that we would not support eventual commercial oil or gas drilling off our coast following the exploration process, surveying activities would be a wasteful investment of time, money and energy."

That makes eight communities in South Carolina and a total of 20 in both Carolinas to go on record against offshore drilling. Hilton Head Island and the town of James Island passed similar resolutions last week.

According to international advocacy group Oceana, the City of Charleston joins 42 other municipal areas along the East Coast.

"Oceana applauds these cities for standing up for all coastal communities and speaking out against offshore oil exploration and development," said campaign organizer Samantha Siegel. "Offshore drilling is a dirty and dangerous business that threatens commercial fishing, tourism and recreation, not to mention our beloved beaches and marine environment. Our strength in numbers can and will win this fight- we look forward to seeing which community will pass the next resolution."

Opponents of offshore drilling worry that spills could hurt the environment and the important coastal tourism industry. Supporters say energy development will create jobs and revenues for the states. They say oil drilling can be done safely.

Earlier this month, 75 leading scientists sent a letter to President Obama urging him to stop the proposal to conduct seismic blasting off the East Coast.

"The Interior Department's decision to authorize seismic surveys along the Atlantic coast is based on the premise that these activities would have only a negligible impact on marine species and populations," the scientists wrote. "On the contrary, the magnitude of the proposed seismic activity is likely to have significant, long-lasting, and widespread impacts on the reproduction and survival of fish and marine mammal populations in the region, including the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale, of which only 500 remain."

The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is taking comments through the end of the month on what issues should be studied in developing an environmental impact statement on drilling off the Atlantic coast.

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