Hewitt tells feds to drop oil drilling off S.C., calls plan ‘Russian roulette’ with oil rigs

MURRELLS INLET – State Rep. Lee Hewitt, R-Murrells Inlet, Monday sent a letter to the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management expressing his opposition to offshore oil and gas drilling off South Carolina. Hewitt’s letter emphatically says “sooner or later” an oil spill disaster will harm the coast and asks that S.C. offshore waters be removed from consideration from any offshore oil and gas leasing plan proposal.

“Tourism produces as much as $19 billion annually and provides one in ten South Carolinians jobs. We cannot afford to risk harming such a major part of our economy by effectively playing Russian roulette with oil rigs off our coast,” Hewitt says in his letter to BOEM Acting Director Dr. Walter Cruickshank. “Sooner or later our coast will catch a bullet in the form of a major oil spill disaster.”

Click here for the letter.

“It is clear the coastal areas of South Carolina are very concerned about the impacts of oil spills on the beaches, marine life and the tourism industry, and understandably have taken strong positions opposing drilling,” continued Hewitt. “There is no way offshore oil and gas drilling can be conducted that will guarantee no oil spills and no resulting environmental and economic disasters.”

All of the municipalities in Hewitt’s coastal district along Georgetown and Charleston counties – Pawleys Island, McClellanville, Awendaw and Mt. Pleasant – have gone on record as opposing offshore oil and gas drilling. Last week, the Georgetown County Council unanimously passed a resolution opposing drilling.

“On behalf of my constituents, I oppose oil and gas development off the South Carolina coast, as well as all waters of the Atlantic in the 2019-2024 National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program and ask that the Atlantic be excluded from the program,” Hewitt wrote.

In late April, President Trump signed an Executive Order implementing an offshore energy strategy that includes oil and gas drilling in the Atlantic, overturning President Obama’s decision to exclude the Atlantic from drilling.

On July 3rd, the BOEM began a 45-day comment period on a new oil and gas leasing program that includes the Atlantic. The comment period will close on August 17th.

Hewitt, a Murrells Inlet Realtor, was appointed in May to the state House Offshore Drilling Ad-Hoc Committee that will make recommendations concerning oil and gas drilling off South Carolina.

Hewitt serves on the House Agricultural, Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs Committee and Environmental Affairs Subcommittee and House Opioid Abuse Prevention Study Committee.

He is also a former S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control board member.