Busloads of oil drilling protesters confront BOEM in town hall event

Busloads of oil drilling protesters confront BOEM in town hall event

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - People packed into Columbia by the busload on Tuesday to hear the Trump Administration's plan to expand oil exploration as staff from Washington, D.C. visited the Palmetto State for a chance to fill residents in on the plan.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) took questions and public comments, on oil exploration being opened to more water than before, including several areas along the Atlantic Coast.

It's no coincidence there was a rally at the State House just hours before the event. There were cheers and jeers that rang out on State House grounds against oil testing and drilling off the coast.

"No drill! No spill!" a crowd chanted on the capitol steps.

There were people from places like Beaufort County; Queen Quet, Chieftess of the Gullah-GeeChee people, stood together with protesters.

"The only oil the Gullah-GeeChees like is when we're frying fish in it," Quet said. "So, for me to be standing here on the grounds of something that I know my ancestors had been enslaved on before, and to still be fighting for them and have ridden a bus to do it today in the cold, for me this was a freedom ride."

"Anybody that says drilling on our coast makes sense has to be stuck on stupid," Rep. Michael Rivers (D- Beaufort) said.

The Trump Administration has opened more waters to test for oil. That would mean seismic testing, at the least. Some fear that the testing and any eventual drilling could spell trouble for nature and the state's tourism industry.

But the BOEM says people would likely not see any rigs from the beach. Staff on hand at the Doubletree Hotel on Tuesday afternoon for the open-house style meeting said that any oil production is at least 10-15 years away. They call the project's current stage a public comment period. People were invited to submit comments electronically, on laptops.

There were other groups that came out and stood in support of oil exploration. Those people said there are benefits like more jobs to stimulate the economy and energy independence for the United States. They say it's needed for national security.

The SC Energy Forum said the job opportunity could better veterans. Other activists with Freedomworks said it's time to provide more lucrative careers on the state's coast.

"We're going to have to put aside our fears and our worries to look at what the future holds. We cannot become stagnant," North Myrtle Beach resident Janet Spencer with FreedomWorks said.

Governor Henry McMaster has asked for a waiver from the Trump Administration, to exempt South Carolina from oil exploration like Florida has been exempted. However, no decision on that request has been announced.

Lieutenant Governor Kevin Bryant, who is also running for governor, tells WIS-TV he is for testing to see if there's oil of South Carolina shores to explore.

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