- Earlier this year, the South Carolina legislature changed the preamble to a 30-year-old law governing beachfront development, striking out a state policy of “retreat” from the shoreline in the face of erosion and replacing it with a policy of “preservation” of the beaches. It was a small change, but a sign of the state’s approach, said Josh Eagle, who teaches environmental law at the University of South Carolina law school.
“The philosophy is one of, ‘We can beat nature,’” he said. “The driving forces are property rights and climate denial.”
People are moving to the Carolinas by the tens of thousands, and to coastal areas in particular, many of them starting businesses in places that would be right in a hurricane’s path. Extreme storms like Florence might jeopardize that growth, but then again, so would aggressive measures to protect against those storms, said Robert Hartwig, the director of the Risk and Uncertainty Management Center at the University of South Carolina.
“Are city planners — and the states and counties — are they zoning in a way to reflect the new reality?” Professor Hartwig asked. “The answer to that is, generally speaking, no. Most local officials are going to be loath to kill the goose that lays the golden economic egg.”