New Reporting Maps Oil Spill Threats to South Carolina

If oil spilled off South Carolina’s coast, a huge current would make it impossible to control. That’s what a stunning analysis by the Post and Courier found this week.

In an unusual twist, the newspaper, with the threat of offshore drilling looming, conducted scientific modeling to figure out what the state’s risk of harm really is. The results confirm some of our worst fears about drilling in the Atlantic—a spill would move quickly, controlling it would be near impossible and the damage would affect a huge swath of the coast.  

The Post and Courier looked at various kinds of spills and found that “oil spills in the Gulf Stream off South Carolina could form fast-moving slicks for hundreds of miles, making cleanup nearly impossible, devastating one of the Atlantic’s most important fisheries and wreaking havoc with the state’s billion-dollar tourist industry.”

These findings are consistent with modeling of oil spills in the Arctic region, not to mention the hard, tragic facts learned from the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf and other oil spills around the globe. It makes one wonder what more this administration needs to see to stop this disaster in the making.

The paper generated more than 1,000 simulations of potential spills off the Atlantic coast, providing citizens in the region a glimpse at some scary possibilities for the future. Shockingly, the story also reported that a BOEM spokesperson said, “There hasn’t been oil and gas activity in the Atlantic in more than 30 years, so there’s been no need for any oil spill simulator studies.”

Thankfully this newspaper with a long history in the region, and an interest in finding the truth, conducted the research to get to the bottom of the issue. The ominous results also showed that in medium to large spill scenarios the Gulf Stream “is like a high-velocity pump” and “Within two weeks, slicks off Georgia could hit the Outer Banks and then move into deeper waters off Virginia and pivot toward Europe.”

The Trump administration proposed drilling off nearly all of the U.S coastline in January when the Department of Interior released its Five Year Offshore Oil and Gas Leasing Plan. It included the entire Atlantic coast with nine proposed lease sales. Since then, a tidal wave of opposition has crashed on the administration. Elected leaders from both parties, Atlantic coast businesses, impacted communities and citizens from both inland and the coasts have voiced opposition to this dumbfounding plan. The administration is interested in making the oil industry rich, but the states that will bear the brunt of routine pollution, risk of oil spills and industrialization don’t want to get stuck with the check. But they will unless the administration reverses course or Congress intervenes.

While not every state has a paper that can invest in this kind of effort, everyone along the Atlantic coast should read this story and consider what a spill will look like off their state. More than likely, it’s just as grim. Here’s hoping Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke reads the Post and Courier.


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