Add South Carolina to Virginia in the effort to force the federal government to open offshore areas to leasing and drilling. South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, US Sen. Lindsey Graham, and Third District Congressman Jeff Duncan all came out in support of Graham’s South Carolina Offshore Drilling Act that would open the South Carolina coast to oil and gas drilling. “South Carolina is leading the way toward energy independence,” said Graham, who is introducing the legislation in the US Senate. “By authorizing offshore leasing for oil and gas exploration, South Carolina will lead a long, overdue effort to open up American-owned energy reserves. “We want to break the dependence on imports from unstable areas like the Middle East and dangerous regimes like Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez. The more closer-to-home energy we utilize, the less we must rely on them. Additionally, this legislation will help reduce our national debt and the state of South Carolina will receive 37.5% of revenues generated from leasing,” he explained. “America desperately needs an all-the-above energy plan,” noted Duncan. “We all support a comprehensive approach to energy, but also understand that South Carolina shouldn’t wait on other states to be able to create jobs here at home. I commend Sen. Graham for his work on the South Carolina Offshore Drilling Act and plan to introduce a version of this legislation in the US House. “Two months ago, I introduced the EXPAND Act, which in addition to expanding nuclear power and other sources of energy, includes opening the entire Outer Continental Shelf for energy leases and permits. “I specifically included the Southern Atlantic OCS to ensure that South Carolina gained access to its natural resources. We are committed to helping South Carolina lead the way towards energy independence for the United States, and create thousands of new energy jobs,” Duncan emphasized. Under the South Carolina Offshore Drilling Act, no drilling would be allowed within 10 miles (6 km) from the coast in a designated buffer zone. From 10-50 miles (6-30 km) offshore, would be an opt-in zone where leasing would be allowed with approval from the governor and state legislature. From 50-100 miles (30-60 km) offshore would be declared open and available for leasing. The legislation directs that 50% of the leasing revenues will be returned to the federal government for deficit reduction, 37.5% will go to the state, and 12.5% will be directed to the Land and Water Conservation Fund. After the state approves the lease, it would then submit a petition to the Secretary of Interior requesting the area be added to any five-year plan. If the secretary fails to approve the petition within 90 days of receipt, the petition shall be considered approved. The National Ocean Industries Association (NOIA) supported the legislation. “NOIA is pleased to see the announcement from Sen. Graham, Rep. Duncan, and Gov. Haley about their legislative efforts to facilitate new offshore access off South Carolina, said NOIA president Randall Luthi. “Due to a deeply disappointing ‘no new access’ plan proposed by this administration for 2012-17, there is no prospect for new access for at least the next five years, whether in Virginia, South Carolina, or elsewhere without legislative intervention. “We applaud the sponsors of this legislation for their leadership and recognition that an all-of-the-above energy policy includes increased access to offshore oil and gas resources. We look forward to working with the South Carolina delegation and others in Congress to push forward toward the realization of greater offshore access for American energy production,” he continued. Of course, two questions come to mind. The first is whether or not there is any prospective areas off the coast of South Carolina. About the only drilling that has taken place off the East Coast was in the Baltimore Canyon area and those efforts came up dry. Would the industry be willing to pony up money for those leases? Virginia would have a higher likelihood of interest. Second, what makes the legislators think that the Department of the Interior is going to give up any of its authority over offshore leasing? There are still a lot of states along the East Coast that don’t want offshore drilling. It will be interesting to see where the battle lines are drawn in this fight. Contact the author, Scott Weeden, at