SODA wants to stop offshore drilling

Grand Strand grassroots organization hopes to stop the possibility of offshore drilling along Carolina coast

None of the communities on the Grand Strand have gone on record to oppose offshore seismic testing and drilling, but that's not stopping one grassroots organization from pushing citizens to voice their opposition.

Stop Offshore Drilling in the Atlantic, that's the name and the mission of SODA.

"We want to inform people about this, let them know what the risks are in offshore drilling, the threat to our tourism economy, and to encourage people to contact elected officials and say, 'Let's not do this'," said Joan Furlong, a SODA volunteer.

The group held a public meeting in Myrtle Beach Thursday night to garner support and educate the community about the potential risks they see with offshore drilling.

"There's going to be a huge negative impact," explained Peg Howell, another SODA volunteer. "It's not just a matter of a couple of rigs coming out and drilling an oil well."

Howell spent years on the other side, working on rigs in the Gulf and the North Sea.

While Myrtle Beach and other Grand Strand communities have yet to publicly take a position on the matter, Howell said she knows firsthand the damage that drilling would bring to the coast.

"We're a tourist economy. All it will take is one bad spill to damage our tourist economy," said Howell. "In addition, commercial fishing will be harmed irreparably."

"There's no data whatsoever to support that," countered Bill Crowther, the president of the Atlantic Energy Alliance, based in Murrells Inlet. "If you look at the Gulf Coast and in Mobile, Alabama, their tourism industries are booming."

Crowther said studies show offshore drilling would bring 35,000 jobs to the area and billions to the economy.

"The pros outweigh the cons obviously, because of the jobs and the economy," he said. "I've seen firsthand in Louisiana, and here they're trying to paint a bleak picture with a lot of scare tactics."

The volunteers of SODA, however, believe a future with offshore drilling could be devastating.

"We're opening ourselves up to a forever decision, something that's going to be our legacy in this area, and it's not pretty," said Howell.

SODA Will hold a statewide public alert day on July 25th.

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