SC’s Rep. Joe Cunningham to introduce offshore drilling ban

January 8, 2019 GMT
Rep. Joe Cunningham, D-S.C., walks to a closed Democratic Caucus meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Jan. 4, 2019. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Rep. Joe Cunningham, D-S.C., walks to a closed Democratic Caucus meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Jan. 4, 2019. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina’s newest Democratic congressman is revamping an anti-offshore drilling effort championed by his Republican predecessor.

In a news conference in Mount Pleasant, U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham said Tuesday that he would introduce a proposed 10-year moratorium on offshore oil and gas drilling.

“Let it be known that we, the people of the Lowcountry, strongly oppose offshore drilling and we strongly oppose seismic airgun blasting,” Cunningham said. “I am not here just to say ‘no’ to offshore drilling, but ‘hell no’ to offshore drilling.”

The Coastal Economies Protection Act was previously introduced by former GOP Congressman Mark Sanford, but it languished in a committee. On Tuesday, Cunningham thanked Sanford for his work on the issue.

Last fall, Cunningham became the first Democrat to flip a South Carolina congressional seat in more than 30 years. Much of his campaign focused on his opposition to offshore drilling and he built a coalition of bipartisan support, pledging to introduce a drilling ban if elected.

On Monday, Cunningham applauded South Carolina’s Republican attorney general for joining a legal effort to oppose the Trump administration’s plans to expand drilling off the Atlantic Coast.

Environmental groups and coastal South Carolina municipalities are challenging the permits for the testing that comes as a precursor to drilling itself, claiming the National Marine Fisheries Service violated the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act in issuing the permits.

South Carolina’s Republican Gov. Henry McMaster, a Trump ally, has voiced his concerns about drilling to the administration and said Monday he backs the state’s legal action. Other East Coast states including Connecticut, Maryland, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina and Virginia are pursuing their own lawsuit against sound testing.

Drilling has stirred emotions and vocal opposition along South Carolina’s coast, with many expressing concern the proposal could cause irreparable harm to the coastal areas that are the heart of South Carolina’s $20 billion tourism industry. There are some supporters of drilling, which some say could mean an economic boon for an area increasingly reliant on tourism.

In his remarks Tuesday, Cunningham called on the Trump administration to listen to those voicing their opposition, particularly those along the coast.

“I demand that this administration respect the wishes of the coastal communities that I represent, who have been so vocally opposed to unwanted offshore drilling and reprehensible seismic airgun blasting,” Cunningham said.


Meg Kinnard can be reached at .