Imagine the Ports of Savannah and Charleston Developed for Seismic Testing

18 Jul Imagine the Ports of Savannah and Charleston Developed for Seismic Testing

For Immediate Release: Wednesday, July 12

Contact: Jean Marie Neal, 202-841-9829


Leaders of a S.C. grassroots organization fighting seismic testing and offshore drilling, says news that Charleston is assumed to play a big role in the process was not good news.

“This is bad for the residents of Charleston, the visitors, as well as those who work in the tourism industry. It would be very harsh on the environment of the entire coast of South Carolina. We all have a stake in this,” said Rev. Jim Watkins, a retired Presbyterian minister living in Georgetown County and chair of Stop Offshore Drilling in the Atlantic (SODA). An oversight hearing on offshore oil and gas drilling was held today by the subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources of the Committee on Natural Resources in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Michael Whatley, executive vice president of the Consumer Energy Alliance, an oil and gas industry association, referred to the port of Charleston. Whatley was asked how the states were preparing for the oil and gas drilling operation being promoted for Virginia, North and South Carolina, and Georgia.

Whatlley said that the “first part of the work would be doing evaluations of the areas.” He went on to say that work would be run “mostly out of the ports in Norfolk, Wilmington, Charleston and Savannah” and that the states “would know its coming and have time to develop the infrastructure.”

Watkins said he was watching the live feed of the hearing and was “surprised at the assumption that the port of Charleston was assumed to be a site, before any decisions are made. Whatley spoke as if it’s all decided.” SODA Leadership Team member Jean Marie Neal, a longtime congressional staffer now living in Georgetown County, was also watching the feed, and said she “felt like I was punched in the stomach.”

Georgetown County resident Peg Howell testified at the hearing, the only coastal opposition voice asked to speak among the 5 members of the panel. “It was a pretty stacked deck,” Watkins said.

Neal pointed out that the full Committee “is known as being very pro the oil and gas industry. Lots of industry contributions go to some of the Committee members.”

Watkins said SODA was ready to work with Charleston city officials to prevent using the port. He also pointed out that “Governor McMaster is opposed to offshore testing and drilling. That was his position before he became Governor, and he has said several times this year that it is still his position.” Neal also said the news about the Port of Charleston “is especially offensive when both the City of Charleston and the County are on record totally opposing offshore drilling. It’s a perfect storm where the Administration and Members of Congress have joined hands with the oil and gas industry to jam this down our throats. If anyone doubted that, they need look at the footage of Michael Whatley telling us what they are planning. ”

Watkins stressed that S.C. Senators Lindsay Graham and Tim Scott “ need to reverse their pro drilling positions and join with the people who live on the coast. Way past time for that.”