Offshore drilling opponents plan rally in Columbia

Demonstrators from a number of South Carolina coastal communities are planning to hold a rally in Columbia on Tuesday as the federal government hosts a meeting on offshore drilling.

Earlier this year, the Trump administration unveiled a five-year plan to explore offshore drilling along the Atlantic coast.

Gov. Henry McMaster is among those opposed to the effort.  In January, McMaster submitted a formal letter asking that South Carolina be exempt from the drilling plan.

Congressman Mark Sanford, who also opposes the plan, is expected to speak during Tuesday’s rally on the steps of the State House.

The Carolina Conservation League is busing demonstrators to the rally from Beaufort, Charleston, Murrells Inlet, and the Upstate.

A group supporting the offshore drilling plan will host a media briefing after the rally.

“As part of the solution to reducing our dependence on foreign sources of energy and creating good jobs here at home we must keep all the options open,” said Stephen Gilchrist, chairman of the South Carolina African American Chamber of Commerce.

Drilling supporters say the Trump administration’s plan could create 35,000 jobs in South Carolina alone, and generate nearly $4 billion of revenue for the state.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will accept public comments on the issue until March 9

State lawmakers are considering a number of different bills on the issue.

One measure, sponsored by state Sen. Stephen Goldfinch (R-Georgetown), calls for a statewide referendum.

Critics say the Goldfinch plan would limit the power of coastal communities by giving inland residents a chance to vote.

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