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Offshore drilling dominates conversation among SC candidates for Congress

Katie Arrington [L], Joe Cunningham (WCIV)

Offshore drilling has become one of the largest issues debated by Lowcountry candidates for Congress.

Why?

Because President Donald Trump and his administration lifted a ban on offshore drilling earlier this year.

It allows oil companies to apply for leases to explore for oil in federal waters off almost every state’s coast, with the exception of Florida.

Florida is exempt from offshore drilling due to it being "heavily reliant" on coastal tourism, according to Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke.

Several state governors want their states to also be exempt, including South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster. Several states have already passed legislation to refuse oil and gas permits.

Joe Cunningham, the Democratic candidate for South Carolina's 1st Congressional District, has been vocal in his absolute opposition to lifting the ban on offshore drilling, citing environmental concerns.

Katie Arrington, the Republican candidate, has not opposed offshore drilling nationwide, instead saying she would work with the Trump administration to give South Carolina an exemption, like Florida.

While she opposes drilling in South Carolina, she has not publicly opposed offshore drilling in neighboring states Georgia and North Carolina, or anywhere else along the East Coast.

“I’ve had a meeting with (Trump) regarding this, and the vice-president and senior administration officials to ensure we have an exemption,” Arrington said at a debate on Oct 16. “I’m not for drilling off the coast of South Carolina, but the only person that can give an exemption to that is the President of the United States.”

Arrington got an endorsement directly from Trump on Twitter during the primary election in June, where she beat out former S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford for the Republican nomination.

Arrington says that as a Republican, she would be able to persuade the Trump administration to exempt South Carolina from offshore drilling. She says Democrat Cunningham would not be effective if elected.

"Joe Cunningham wrote a letter that no one will read for the next two years,” Arrington said at the debate. “I will have a seat at the table.”

Cunningham said at the debate that Arrington’s stance on offshore drilling “shows poor judgement.”

WATCH | SC Congress debate between Katie Arrington and Joe Cunningham

“If you lift a ban on smoking inside a restaurant, what do you expect to happen? People will start smoking. If you lift a ban off our coast, people will start drilling,” he said.

Cunningham has gotten the backing of Lowcountry mayors including Folly Beach Mayor Tim Goodwin and Isle of Palms Mayor Jimmy Carroll.

“Republican mayors are crossing the aisle because I’m the only one they can count on to defend our beaches and our coastal waterways and our environment,” Cunningham said at the debate.

IOP Mayor speaks out against Arrington

On Tuesday, exactly two weeks before the general election, Carroll said at a press conference that Arrington threatened him for supporting Cunningham.

“She told me because I personally endorsed Joe, that the Isle of Palms lost its seat at the table. I can only assume that that means she doesn’t plan on representing the entire city of her constituents and those who voted for her, a threat which should not be taken lightly," Carroll said. "I was told by Katie Arrington that I don’t understand Washington and how it works, yet I have a college degree in Political Science."

Arrington released a statement shortly after, stating that her words were taken out of context.

She stated she told Carroll that if Cunningham is elected, all South Carolina communities—including Isle of Palms—will lose its voice with the administration.

The general election will be held on Nov. 6.

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