Georgia House panel passes resolution opposing offshore drilling

Credit: Jim Galloway

Credit: Jim Galloway

A House panel has taken the first step to send a message to the federal government of their opposition to exploring for oil off the coast of Georgia.

A House Natural Resources and Environment subcommittee approved House Resolution 48, which would declare the state's opposition to offshore drilling and seismic testing.

Lawmakers voted 7-1 to advance the measure. Because it is a House resolution, the Senate does not have to consider the proposal by the last day of session April 2.

Lawmakers have tried to pass similar resolutions in the past, but those efforts have gained no traction.

Coastal legislators and environmentalists said they’re encouraged that Gov. Brian Kemp has voiced his opposition to drilling off the Georgia coast. Former Gov. Nathan Deal didn’t express support for or opposition to oil exploration.

“Governor Kemp is opposed to drilling off of our coast as are 15 Georgia communities and 220 communities on the East Coast,” said Alice Keyes with Brunswick-based conservation group One Hundred Miles. “If all the rest of the East Coast governors and 220 communities agree to this, it is not a partisan issue.”

A failed proposal from House Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Chairman Tom McCall, R-Elberton, would have softened the resolution to express "concern for all offshore energy exploration and encourage any exploration to be done safely.

McCall also was the only lawmaker to vote against HR 65.

Environmentalists said while a resolution stating Georgia’s opposition to oil exploration would be a good start, they hope Kemp will take more aggressive steps to remove Georgia from the Trump Administration’s list of states where seismic testing can occur.

In South Carolina, for example, the attorney general has joined a lawsuit filed by several cities and counties against the administration to block exploration off the coast there.