Myrtle Beach City Council voted 6-1 to oppose seismic testing at its regular meeting Tuesday afternoon. Councilman Randal Wallace was the lone no vote.
Again, as we say below, the vote means nothing as to whether seismic testing will get the okay from the state and federal governments.
There is a state divide on the issue as the upstate generally wants seismic testing and oil drilling, if it proves feasible, to go ahead for the economic benefits. The coastal cities and counties generally are worried about possible oil spills and the damage they can do to beaches.
This will prove to be a divisive issue moving forward.
By Paul Gable
When the Myrtle Beach City Council votes on seismic testing in the Atlantic Ocean later today, the result will mean nothing.
The resolution opposing seismic testing will be a statement of the sense of council, if it passes. However, local governments are not part of the decision process.
Local media reports speculate Myrtle Beach City Council is split 4-3 with Mayor John Rhodes, and council members Wayne Gray, Susan Grissom Means and Mike Chestnut opposing seismic testing while council members Randal Wallace, Phil Render and Mike Lowder reportedly support it.
But, it really doesn’t make any difference what Myrtle Beach City Council does.
SCDHEC determines consistency of permit requests with coastal zone management practices. The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management issues the permits.
Seismic testing uses loud blasts of sound from airguns to gather data about what oil reserves might be under the ocean floor.
The hoped for result is that seismic testing will prove oil reserves of sufficient size to justify recovery are present under the ocean floor. Those supporting testing see this result as an economic boom for the state.
Opponents of seismic testing, and later drilling, point to the potential harm to sea mammals and the ever present possibility of another Deepwater Horizon oil blowout that devastated the Gulf Coast in April 2010.
Beaufort, Charleston and Folly Beach all passed resolutions opposing seismic testing.
The SCDHEC Review Committee denied a review of final approval for a permit requested by conservation groups after SCDHEC staff found an application by Spectrum Geo Inc. was consistent with the state’s Coastal Zone Management Program.
Beaufort joined conservation groups in requesting a contested case hearing of the permit in Administrative Law Court last month. If the Administrative Law Court finds in favor of SCDHEC and Spectrum Geo, the permit will be issued by BOEM.
Myrtle Beach is coming late to the game. The Coastal Conservation League requested city and county governments to pass resolutions opposing seismic testing last spring.
Horry County Council denied consideration of a resolution opposing seismic testing.
Several council members believe their lack of considering a resolution was a catalyst for the Coastal Conservation League’s and SC Wildlife Federation’s continuing opposition to the International Drive project.
Wouldn’t it be the height of irony if the refusal of Horry County Council to consider a resolution that means absolutely nothing is causing environmentalists to continue blocking the International Drive project, which is a top priority for the county?