Offshore drilling bill passes House, what’s next?


South Carolina Joe Cunningham's bill passes House. Georgia Congressman Buddy Carter votes against it

A victory for a Lowcountry lawmaker and for environmentalists along the coasts.

South Carolina Congressman Joe Cunningham’s bill to prevent offshore drilling and seismic testing in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans passed the house Wednesday.

It was Representative Joe Cunningham’s first bill to hit the house floor and the first victory.

But as many local lawmakers celebrated, one Georgia Congressman is now explaining why he voted against the bill

“Unfortunately the Democrats blocked the Amendments that I offered that would have made the bill much better and made me able to support it,” said Buddy Carter.

Congressman Buddy Carter says he proposed three different amendments, to give states or the Georgia state legislature specifically power to make the decision to allow drilling or seismic testing in the waters off their coast.

All three, Carter says were not brought to the floor and left in committee. Which, even though most polls show the majority of his constituents against offshore drilling, Carter says left him no choice but to vote against the bill.

“I’ve seen polls that indicate the farther inland you go there’s more support for it. Regardless of how you feel about it, you agree we need to have viable and affordable energy,” said Carter.

Georgia State Representative Carl Gilliard says he was disappointed in Carter’s vote, especially after the Georgia Legislature passed a bipartisan bill of their own urging Congress to block future testing and drilling.

“What the people are saying is we want to protect Georgia’s coast and Georgia’s coast is very valuable,” said Carl Gilliard. “The value of that vote is that we have to listen to the will of the people. Little disappointed the will of the people hasn’t been listened to in that effect.”

Gilliard also believes, despite Carter’s contention, this should be a Federal decision. The states have already made their feelings clear.

The bill actually started right here in Beaufort, and expanded to the rest of the state and now the nation

Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling says its a positive step, but now it will be up to South Carolina Senators Tim Scott and Lindsey Graham to vote for what the people of South Carolina want.

“They said they were going to listen to their constituents,” explained Mayor Billy Keyserling. “So with 72, 74-PERCENT of people in the state now saying this is too risky. We don’t want to lose our coastline, we don’t want to lose the jobs, we want to keep the quality of life, hopefully, they will rise to the occasion.”

Congressman Carter says even though the bill passed the House, he doesn’t believe its going any farther.

“It is not going anywhere. It is not going to pass the (Republican-controlled) Senate. The President is not going to sign it. The President and administration are the ones who opened up those waters.”

The proposal to open the waters for more seismic testing and possible drilling came directly from President Trump in January of 2018.

The move prompted Governors in at least 17 coastal states, including South Carolina, to sue the Trump administration.

A federal judge ruled in May that Trump had exceeded his authority when he ordered that the Arctic and parts of the Atlantic be opened to oil and gas development.

Carter isn’t a believer in a legal challenge to the plan.

“I think they are going to be hard-pressed if they try to take this to the courts,” said Carter. “I think the courts will rule in the President’s favor but that’s why we have the courts to make those types of decisions.”

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