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Thursday, June 14, 2012n Page 25 Haley, Graham, Duncan promote offshore drilling

By SUSANNE M. SCHAFER Associated Press

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Three

top South Carolina Republicans came together June 11 to support federal leg- islation that would allow drilling of gas and oil off South Carolina’s coast, argu- ing the state’s need for jobs and income outweigh potential problems. “There is a risk in everything you

do, but the biggest risk is to do noth- ing,” said U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham. He said his plan would protect the en- vironment and bar drilling in a 10-mile buffer zone off the coast. The governor and the S.C. Legisla-

ture would determine whether oil and gas exploration could occur within the next 10-to-50 mile stretch, while all ar- eas 50 to 100 miles offshore would be open to drilling leases, Graham said. Gov. Nikki Haley and U.S. Rep. Jeff

Duncan joined Graham at a news con- ference, where all said they hope the legislation in the U.S. Senate would lead the nation to energy independence and bring thousands of jobs and millions of

dollars in revenue to state and federal coffers. Graham was introducing it in the Senate June 11.

“Offshore drilling is where we need to be. This will

bring so many more jobs.” – S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley

“Offshore drilling is where we need

to be,” said Haley. “This will bring so many more jobs.” The state’s jobless rate was 8.8 per-

cent in April. Haley said those who might protest

against such drilling have valid con- cerns, but, she added, “We’re not com- promising tourism to do this.” Duncan said he plans to introduce

similar legislation in the House. “This legislation will help our state lead the way in energy innovation,” said the congressman from Laurens. Graham faulted President Barack

Obama’s administration for standing in the way of oil and gas exploration, and said the situation could change with the November elections. “If Gov. (Mitt) Romney becomes

President Romney, this will happen,” Graham said. Virginia was slated to be the first

state on the East Coast to offer oil and gas drilling, but that plan was shelved by the Obama administration last year after the massive 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. In recent weeks, the federal govern-

ment has been holding hearings along the Atlantic Coast to gather opinions and discuss the potential environmen- tal impact of offshore drilling. Representatives of the several busi-

ness groups such as the state Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce and the Pal- metto Agribusiness Council also at- tended the session to show their sup- port for Graham’s plan. The Council released a study done for them by a local consulting firm which said an offshore drilling industry could spawn

7,500 jobs by 2030 and about $87.5 million annually in sales, income and royalty taxes. South Carolina tourism is a $15 bil-

lion industry, and the latest figures for 2010 showed that 1 in 10 jobs, or more than 170,000, are tied to tourism. The industry also produces about $1.2 bil- lion in state and local tax revenue. Environmental groups have argued

that alternative fuel choices are prefer- able to offshore drilling. Frank Knapp, Jr., president of the

South Carolina Small Business Cham- ber of Commerce and vice chairman of the American Sustainable Business Council, said in a statement released June 11 that a comprehensive energy plan would be preferable to seeking fossil fuels offshore. “It is important for our elected of-

ficials not to settle for a few jobs for South Carolina associated with drill- ing, digging or piping when thousands of good jobs are waiting to be created in the areas of wind, solar and bio fu- els,” Knapp said.

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