In a time of extraordinary polarization, nothing’s quite united people of all types on the coast like the jab and punch of environmental, fishing and tourism protection and opposition to offshore energy exploration. A bipartisan and bicameral group of legislators came together Wednesday afternoon at the state Capitol to declare their plans to pass resolutions that back that sentiment.
“Most of my life — 47 of my 50-plus years — have been spent in Coastal Georgia, and I’ve come to have a deep love for the wonderful treasures that are found in our natural resources in Coastal Georgia,” said state Sen. William Ligon, R-White Oak, a sponsor of Senate Resolution 88, filed Tuesday by Savannah Democratic Sen. Lester Jackson. “I know that many of you are here today because you share this love. For some, it may just be walking along an unspoiled beach, or perhaps just sitting and looking across a vast expanse of marsh. There’s just a connection there with nature.
“For me, my connections come through the waters of Coastal Georgia.
“As a boy, nothing was more exciting than dragging a seine net across the shallows of a beach, or throwing a net into a deep hole of a river just to see what might come up in that net. And then those treasures would be enjoyed later when my mother would fry up those sweet Georgia shrimp for our dinner.”
Ligon talked about the natural beauty, and the connections between generations that come from coastal life, for those living here and those who visit here.
“As a people, we have come to realize that this is a very unique and limited resource,” Ligon said. “We don’t have a lot of coastline. And so we’re coming together to protect this valuable resource. We’ve done this in the past — we will continue to do this going forward, and that is why I’m proud to put my name on this resolution, opposing offshore drilling in Coastal Georgia.”
Also listed as Senate sponsors are state Sens. Ben Watson, R-Savannah, and Emanuel Jones, D-Decatur.
State Rep. Don Hogan, R-St. Simons Island, said he’s lived on SSI for 52 years, where tourism means jobs, investment and income. Hogan’s a sponsor on the S.R. 88 counterpart, House Resolution 48, which was filed by Garden City Democratic Rep. Carl Gilliard on Jan. 28. It’s also sponsored by state Reps. Bill Hitchens, R-Rincon; Ron Stephens, R-Savannah; and Jesse Petrea, R-Savannah.
Hogan said if there was a fossil fuel spill or a leak, “We would be devastated with our tourism for our area. My wife operated a gift shop on St. Simons, down in the village, for 37 years. And it’s meant a lot to us — our livelihood and my wife’s livelihood and people in our area’s livelihood to have tourism. It provides a tremendous amount of jobs in our area.”
Gilliard said that these resolutions can succeed where last year’s resolutions didn’t because timing is a defining moment, and that moment is now.
“Why do we want to stand against offshore drilling? Because of the economic support that we have, for the many jobs that it creates — probably over 21,000 jobs,” Gilliard said. “Why do we want to stand against offshore drilling? We just got through doing something that is very common — we had some delicious seafood from Savannah, Ga.
“Had we not had good waterways, clear waterways, we would not be able to benefit as consumers for that delicious seafood. It’s important that I even say today that I’m very proud of our governor, who has also taken a stance in the area of saying that he would be in support of standing against offshore drilling in Georgia.”
Jackson said his family were shrimpers, and he wondered what a spill would do to families dependent on shrimping.
“The shrimping industry depends on us,” Jackson said. “The oyster industry depends on us. If we interject offshore drilling into Georgia, we jeopardize our livelihoods in Georgia. We jeopardize the tourism industry in Georgia.”