CHARLESTON, S.C. (CN) – Democratic presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren made her first campaign stop in the crucial early primary state of South Carolina on Monday night, speaking at a coastal community forum in Charleston.
The U.S. senator from Massachusetts took the opportunity to vocalize her commitment to stand up against the fossil fuel industry, but also took considerable time to lend her ear to local concerns about environmental issues that played a major role in last year’s midterm election in the Palmetto State’s 1st Congressional District.
In November, Congressman Joe Cunningham turned the Charleston area’s political tide from red to blue last with his win against Republican Katie Arrington attributed to his stance against offshore drilling. Cunningham is the first Democrat to represent the district since the 1980s.
In Warren’s opening remarks, she echoed her recently announced broad policy to protect public lands and the nation’s waterways.
“On day one of the Warren administration I will sign a moratorium to stop offshore drilling,” she said. “Climate change is real, it is manmade and we’re running out of time. It is important that we make a change.”
She said climate change disproportionately affects poor and minority communities.
“My fight is your fight,” Warren proclaimed.
During the event in Charleston, Warren largely yielded the stage to five local panelists and community members to listen and take notes rather than voicing more of her campaign platform.
Alongside Warren, Miriam Green, mayor of the nearby small fishing town of Awendaw, said offshore drilling would be harmful to not only the environmental but also the people along the South Carolina coast who depend on the ocean for their livelihoods and food.
“Our people depend on the oysters, the crabs, the clams, the fish and the shrimp,” Green said.
One of the panelists, Murrells Inlet seafood businessman Rick Baumann, cited a 2014 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report stating that seismic blasting for oil exploration would potentially deafen or kill as many as 350,000 dolphins, whales and other ocean mammals. He said the activity could also disrupt millions of other saltwater species.
“It seems like the Endangered Species Act only applies to the fishing industry. The oil industry is about to get a free pass,” Baumann said, referring to the Trump administration’s push for offshore drilling in the Atlantic. “This is a forever decision. It must be stopped.”
Baumann said oil extraction activity would not only negatively impact the seafood industry, but it would also have severe ramifications for the entire coastal economy in South Carolina.
“It will impact economic tourism, small fishing businesses, and the ice houses, people who make fishing gear, those who do the dolphin and whale viewing tours. Drillers spill a lot of refuse off those platforms, all kinds of trash,” he said.
Following her visit to Charleston, Warren continued on the campaign trail to another South Carolina coastal community, Beaufort, and will then head to Colorado and Utah.