S.C. lawmakers embrace offshore energy

June 12, 2012 at 7:55 AM
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COLUMBIA, S.C., June 12 (UPI) -- A South Carolina lawmaker reversed course by embracing oil and natural gas development off the state coast, saying it's time to gain energy independence.

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., in 2005 expressed concerns that offshore oil and natural gas drilling would hurt the state's economy and environment. The (South Carolina) Post and Courier reported that Graham said then that drilling offshore would delay addressing lingering concerns about fossil fuels.

On Monday, he joined South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-N.C., in introducing legislation that would open areas more than 50 miles from the coast to oil and natural gas drilling.

"Let's get on with it," Graham was quoted by the newspaper as saying. "I'm tired of talking about being energy independent. I'm tired of sending the hardworking people of America's money overseas to buy oil from people who hate our guts."

Critics said there might not be enough reserves off the coast to warrant the risk to tourism, which is the source of most of the state's revenue.

The U.S. Interior Department and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management announced plans in March to assess the conventional and renewable energy resource potential in the Atlantic Ocean. The announcement was part of a five-year development plan for the Outer Continental Shelf.

There's been no oil or natural gas production on the Atlantic shelf. A 1996 study estimated there were 7.2 billion barrels of oil and 27.5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in undiscovered conventionally recoverable resources there.

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