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API Poll: South Carolina Voters Back Offshore Drilling

Seventy-seven percent of 605 registered voters that were surveyed in South Carolina said they support drilling for oil and natural gas resources off of their coast line, according to a new poll conducted by Harris Interactive for the American Petroleum Institute (API).

The survey found that the support crossed party lines, with clear majorities of Republicans (88%), Democrats (67%) and Independents (77%) all in favor of offshore drilling. The survey, which was conducted on Sept. 24-30, has a sampling error of plus/minus 4%, API said.

The Obama administration will soon begin work on its next five-year offshore leasing plan, in which areas of the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf could be included for oil and gas leasing. Early next year, the administration also is expected to decide whether to permit seismic surveys in the Atlantic from Delaware to northern Florida for the first time in 30 years. The current seismic estimates are "obsolete," the API said.

The presidential ban on drilling off the East and West coasts was lifted in 2008, but no leasing has materialized since then. States like South Carolina and Virginia face opposition from neighboring states, which argue that drilling would impact their waters. Moreover, unlike the Gulf of Mexico region, East Coast states do not yet have the infrastructure (pipelines, processing facilities and platforms) in place needed to bring natural gas ashore.

Last week, API reported that Harris Interactive surveyed 616 registered voters in Virginia, and found that 67% of them supported drilling for oil and gas resources off the Virginia coast (see Daily GPI, Oct. 17). Similar to the results of the South Carolina poll, the support crossed party lines, with Republicans (81%), Democrats (52%) and Independents (71%) all in favor.

Legislation has been introduced in both the Senate and House, which would require the Interior Department to conduct a Virginia offshore lease sale, and it would allow for the sharing of royalties with coastal states that permit offshore development.

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