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Environment: Opponents to offshore drilling rally comments on permits

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

Environmentalists are hosting a public meeting next week to discuss the potential impact of oil and gas exploration off the coast of South Carolina and neighboring states.

The local meeting is a follow-up to an information session held by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management in Mount Pleasant last week to gather public input.

Peg Howell of North Litchfield, the first woman to work on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, will be among speakers on Monday at 6 p.m. at the Waccamaw Library. She said the local meeting is being held just in time — the deadline is March 30 — to encourage comments to the BOEM regarding the environmental impact of oil and gas exploration and drilling. Her presentation will also include information on the effects of seismic testing on ocean animals.

“The program will be mostly about the whole process,” Howell said, “unpacking some of the information that has been spoken by others, perhaps correcting some misimpressions regarding jobs and environmental impact. We want to make sure people have the whole picture of what’s about to happen here and not just one perspective.”

Organizers of the upcoming meeting agreed on allowing a series of 600 telephone calls to be made to local numbers to remind residents of its place and time.

Ian McLaren of Litchfield said last week’s meeting in Mount Pleasant served as an information session for the BOEM and provided coastal residents an opportunity to express their objections to offshore drilling. Environmentalists were joined by representatives of the tourism industry fearful of damage to the beaches, McLaren said.

Geology and earlier testing off South Carolina have suggested there is little currently exploitable oil or natural gas to be found. Howell told members of the Sierra Club this month that an area off the North Carolina coast has more potential.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is accepting public comment until March 30 at boemoceaninfo.com. DHEC had extended its comment period on seismic testing until March 21 at joynercm@dhec.sc.gov .

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