Island Packet: As the pinch for oil and natural gas supply intensifies, energy companies are beginning a push to seek fuels believed to be off the coast of Hilton Head Island.
Energy industry lobbyists are ramping up efforts to convince state legislators to open up South Carolina’s coast for oil and natural gas drilling. Those efforts come despite federal moratoria on offshore drilling that last until 2012.
Though some state lawmakers insist nothing is in the works for January’s legislative session, lobbyists have acknowledged meeting with legislators on the issue, and the state’s petroleum council actively is soliciting support for exploring offshore resources.
“I’ve had a number of conversations with members of the General Assembly having to do with natural gas drilling,” said Hope Lanier, a lobbyist with Charlotte-based Piedmont Natural Gas, a distribution company that serves upstate South Carolina and parts of North Carolina and Tennessee. “I think there is a lot of positive momentum” for exploring offshore natural gas reserves.
A small provision in a wide-ranging energy bill passed by Congress this summer mandated a national inventory of offshore energy resources, prompting local concern that drilling for oil and natural gas off South Carolina’s prized coastline could be a step closer.
Experts believe most of the oil and natural gas deposits in the South Atlantic region are in an area called the Carolina Trough, a large undersea basin that runs along the coast from North Carolina to northern Georgia. At its closest, near Cape Hatteras, N.C., the trough is about 60 miles from shore.
Near Hilton Head Island, the trough is estimated to be about 150 miles from shore.