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Science & Environment

Republican Opposition To Offshore Drilling

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

The Trump Administration announced this week it would open nearly 90 percent of the U.S. coast to offshore drilling. That would include areas of Alaska, the Pacific and Atlantic oceans and the Gulf of Mexico to explore for oil and gas.

Energy companies applauded the measure. Environmentalists and some elected officials say it's overreach. That includes Republican Representative Mark Sanford of South Carolina. He joins us now from Beau-fort (ph). Did I pronounce that correctly, Mr. Sanford?

MARK SANFORD: Well, it's Beaufort, N.C., and it's Buford (ph), S.C.

SIMON: Beaufort, S.C.

SANFORD: So it was close.

SIMON: All right. I beg your pardon, sir. Wouldn't this be good for the economy in South Carolina?

SANFORD: I don't believe so. More importantly, it doesn't matter what I believe. It matters what the people that I represent believe. And en masse, every single municipality along the coast of South Carolina has written up a formal resolution opposing offshore drilling and testing all through the waters of South Carolina.

SIMON: It wouldn't create jobs?

SANFORD: They believe - and I agree with them - that the tradeoffs are not worth it. So what we're talking about is four months' worth of energy independence, if we were to hit a find out there, in exchange for jeopardizing a robust tourism industry that's strong on the coast of South Carolina. A lot of people come here to visit our beaches. It's $13 billion a year of economic impact.

And the scale of what might happen with energy exploration is minuscule relative to that tourism impact. So I think there are big tradeoffs in terms of jobs that people don't feel comfortable with, as well as the environmental questions and liabilities that would come with that sort of offshore, you know, exploration.

SIMON: Do you feel the administration took your views into account?

SANFORD: Well, no. They came out the other side. I mean, I had interesting conversations with the secretary, who's a friend, and a great fellow. I said, wait a minute. I mean, Republicans supposedly believe in home rule. And if we believe in home rule, the government that is most local generally know - is what generally governs best.

And we believe in not making all decisions in Washington, D.C. We believe in handing authority out of Washington to, again, local hands. And so I think it's a decision that is at odds with this concept of federalism that I think used to be important to the Republican Party.

SIMON: Mr. Sanford, I'm going to turn now to Congress. The president's meeting with congressional leaders and others at Camp David this weekend to talk about his legislative agenda. Lots of competing priorities - what do you put at the top?

SANFORD: What I put at the top is this budget deal coming down the end of January. I mean, it's going to be, I mean, a grab bag, if you will, of different interests. If you look at what might happen with regard to DACA, if you look at what might happen with regard to spending debt level - I mean, it is a, I mean, full buffet, if you will, of congressional issues that are going to be dealt with come the end of January.

SIMON: What do you put - I mean, welfare spending, infrastructure, immigration. What's up there?

SANFORD: All of it. They're all in the grab bag. Ultimately, the most important thing is, how do we decide our spending going forward? Because if not, there'd be the specter of another government shutdown. I don't think there will be a government shutdown. I think that, you know, the lubricant in these sorts of things is more money. And I think, you know, if you look at the history of past budget deals, more money has solved the equation.

But again, we're at a tipping point from a taxpayer standpoint on how much more money is there out there, particularly given the fact that as Republicans, we've said, let's hold the line on the amount of money that goes to government. That was in essence the core of the tax bill.

And the question now is, OK, if spending continues to go up, these numbers don't work. And so I think there will be a real - I mean, a day of reckoning, if you will. We've signed the line on what we want to have come into government. Now we need decide how much goes out.

SIMON: Representative Mark Sanford of South Carolina, thanks so much for being with us from beautiful Beaufort, S.C. Thanks very much.

SANFORD: Yes, sir. Thanks.

(SOUNDBITE OF CULTS SONG, "WALK AT NIGHT") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.