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The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday passed the Republican-backed Lower Energy Costs Act on a 225-204 party-line vote. Passage, according to U.S. Rep. Nancy Mace, R-S.C., is a major victory for South Carolina, because it includes a ban on offshore drilling off the Atlantic coast.


“An offshore drilling ban being included in the base text of the Lower Energy Costs Act is a big win for the Lowcountry,” Mace said in a press release. “This will positively impact our coastal communities, who rely on major industries such as tourism and fishing to drive our local economy.”

The measure, however, still must be approved by the U.S. Senate, where it is expected to face rough seas.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has already called the measure “dead on arrival,” according to a March 30 op-ed in The New York Times. He said the bill has almost no chance of being considered in the Democratic-controlled Senate or being passed by President Joe Biden, whose advisers have already issued a veto threat against it, calling it a “thinly veiled license to pollute.”

But Mace, who has long supported the bank, says the measure would protect South Carolina’s coast and environment. 

“This will help safeguard the natural resources of the area, including the pristine beaches and unique wildlife habitats that make the Lowcountry one of the best places in the country to live.”

The bill seeks to bolster domestic energy production and remove red tape surrounding the construction of new energy infrastructure like oil and gas pipelines. It also would limit presidential oversight on energy development — a part that Democrats don’t like. 

Offshore natural gas and oil drilling poses risks to the natural environment along the coast, with oil spills threatening several native species and resources. 

“Offshore oil and gas drilling threatens our beaches, rivers, creeks, salt marshes and Sea Islands,” local environmental advocacy group Coastal Conservation League (CCL) wrote in its Stop Offshore Drilling project on its website. “It threatens wildlife like brown pelicans, bottlenose dolphins, sea turtles and endangered North Atlantic right whales.”

The CCL is not new to the fight against offshore drilling. A document compiled by the organization contains a collection of letters, statements and reports from energy groups, economic groups and others that detail the diminishing value of offshore drilling, and the rising environmental concerns that come with it. 

“While offshore oil and gas activities have become much safer in recent years, spilled oil and coastal shorelines don’t mix,” wrote William Gillespie, an economist with the S.C. Board of Economic Advisors in a 2009 letter to state senators. “Given the relatively low amount of potential resources off our shores and the environmental sensitivity of our coastline, there does not seem to be much incentive [for offshore drilling.]”

In addition to the ban now in the wording of the House bill, an amendment added to it also requires the U.S. secretary of energy annually to report on ongoing assessments of alternative and renewable energy sources. The amendment passed in January with support from Democratic and Republican legislators, further protecting the coast’s valuable tourism industry from the negative impacts of offshore drilling. 

“This amendment is a victory for the state of South Carolina, and all those who have long advocated for protecting our coast from the dangers of offshore drilling,” Mace said in a statement in January. “It is also a win for our local community who relies on the tourism industry; it’s a win for the environment and for future generations who will benefit from the preservation of these priceless resources.”


An offshore drilling ban was a large part of the campaign of Mace’s predecessor, Joe Cunningham. His first congressional bill was a proposed 10-year moratorium on drilling, seismic testing and exploration, followed by a second bill calling for an indefinite ban that passed the House, but died in the U.S. Senate. 

Former President Donald Trump later signed a 10-year moratorium on offshore drilling along the southern Atlantic Coast, though the measure was not as strict as either of Cunningham’s proposals. 

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