Monday, June 8, 2015 Blog

No slush funds this year, the hubris of bulldozers and offshore drilling, Isle of Palms steps up for the ocean.

by Andy Hollis


The news of the week is that the S.C. Legislature has adjourned, abiding (perhaps unintentionally) by the principle “First, do no harm.” (This mandate, incidentally, originates from the Hippocratic school of philosophy, but is not part of the Hippocratic Oath.)

In fact, the 2015 legislative session produced almost nothing. In the case of transportation funding (and a variety of anti-environment measures), this was a good thing. Both the House and the Senate had persistently refused to provide any assurance that additional funds from a higher gas tax would be used on road maintenance and repair. Instead, they insisted on leaving the funding agenda open-ended, under the control of two members the Legislature. The last version of the bill would have actually reversed recent accountability gains, by shifting the power to select the DOT director from the governor back to the General Assembly. This article from The State, by Jeffrey Collins, offers a postmortem.

The next article, by Bo Petersen with the Post and Courier, reports that coastal engineers, in an attempt of detach the western end of Captain Sams Spit, on Kiawah Island, have sunk a bulldozer and a dump truck in the inlet. The Coast Guard representative’s comment that they “haven’t seen a sheen of oil on the water yet,” is not comforting. Neither is the explanation that the tide was higher than they thought it would be. Tide charts are easy to find, and it also pays to keep one’s eye on rising waters, even when one is spending the day on the beach without a bulldozer.

This event begs the question: if sophisticated engineers can’t keep a bulldozer and dump truck out of the ocean, what is the likelihood that offshore oil exploration and extraction will be trouble-free? The answer, sadly, is available to anyone who has been reading about the California coast — a state that has a reputation, unlike this state, for the most rigorous (some have even said “job-killing”) environmental regulations. Accidents like this one are not only possible, they are, over time, inevitable. It’s simply a matter of when, and how much damage they ultimately cause.

So the next article, from the South Strand News, is timely. It reports that six conservation groups, including the Coastal Conservation League, are petitioning the Secretary of Interior to reverse the decision to allow exploration and drilling. The letter notes that 17 coastal towns and cities in South Carolina, (in addition to Columbia, which many, many years ago was also coastal), have passed resolutions opposing the Administration’s oil initiative.

Finally, on the subject of environmental responsibility and action on behalf of the ocean, the Conservation League’s Katie Zimmerman wrote the last Post and Courier op-ed, praising the town of Isle of Palms for passing a ban on single-use plastic bags. This is absolutely the least we can do in our efforts to become better stewards of our environment. Good for Isle of Palms for standing up for fish, marine turtles and pelagic birds!


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