Off-Shore Drilling Hearings See Big Turnout


Offshore drilling protest-animals, for San Francisco CA hearing. Image credit:Wild Coast, via Sierra Club

This month, the Department of the Interior held four hearings on off-shore drilling. I think this is a great sign - an administration that wants to hear from the public about energy solutions. So of course the Sierra Club helped turn out the clean energy crowds at the hearings in Atlantic City, New Jersey; New Orleans, Louisiana; and San Francisco, California. I'd like to share some feedback I've gotten from our folks who spoke out against drilling.Atlantic City NJ Hearing
Matt Kirby of the Sierra Club Lands Team attended the Atlantic City hearing and said it went very well.  "The hearing was an enormous success as environmentalists from up and down the eastern seaboard traveled to Atlantic City to voice their opposition to drilling," he said.

"The crowd was a healthy mix of representatives from environmental organizations, public citizens, as well as a large crowd from the oil and gas industry.  The enviros, however, dominated the mood of the hearing, both in sheer numbers and applause at opportune moments."

Kirby added that he was particularly impressed by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's attentiveness on the issue of off-shore drilling and clean energy. "Salazar was present for the first half of the day and read comment cards aloud, called on citizens to voice their comments, addressed concerns, and directly asked questions of the public. It was an amazing display by an Interior Secretary to be so involved with the issue and truly underscored his commitment to responsible development."

New Orleans Hearing
Then came the hearing in New Orleans, where clean energy advocates again took a strong stand against drilling via speeches in the hearing and during the rally.

Said Jill Mastrototaro of our New Orleans office, "Though the odds were against the no-drillers, our message was mighty."

She added that many elected officials made statements, and that then she and fellow organizer Darryl Malek-Wiley made their statements on oil spills and the need for clean energy. Secretary Salazar even asked Mastrototaro numerous questions about national Sierra Club energy policy.

"New Orleans and the Gulf Coast are ground zero for climate change, and residents throughout the region are realizing the real dangers posed by sea-level rise if we as a nation and a people do not start making strides toward developing cleaner, renewable energy," said Mastrototaro. "With each passing hurricane season, more and more citizens are making this realization, and it’s our job to engage them in our quest toward this cleaner energy future.  As the sign from one of our volunteers claimed, 'Wind mill, baby, wind mill!'"
San Francisco CA Hearing
And then finally, last week was the hearing in San Francisco. Volunteers from the Sierra Club and dozens of other groups gathered before the hearing for a rally that included live music, banners, sea creature costumes, signs and banners, speakers, and more.

The rally's speakers included Sierra Club Board President Allison Chin, Zeke Grader of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations (who talked about the threats of drilling to the fishing industry), and Lamont Kelly from the International Longshore & Warehouse Union (who called for good, clean energy jobs). Check out video of the rally here in this YouTube clip.

Senator Boxer provided Secretary Salazar with the gift of a stunning photo of the northern California coastline and urged him not to allow drilling to destroy this place. The Sierra Club's Kristina Johnson was there and said the response from clean energy supporters was fantastic.

"When I arrived on the University of California - San Francisco campus for Salazar's final offshore drilling hearing, I was greeted by a group of polar bears holding banners reading 'Salazar: Save Polar Bears,'" said Johnson. "Inside the hearing, a panel of representatives from up and down California's coast reminded Salazar of our state's legacy of oil spills--the first, in Santa Barbara nearly 50 years ago, launched the dangers of offshore drilling into public consciousness. The memories of the most recent, in the San Francisco Bay in 2007, are still fresh."

Johnson said that by the time Salazar left the hearing, Californians--and a colorful crew of sea creatures--had sent a clear, resounding "no" to more offshore drilling and a loud, lively "yes" to clean coasts and clean energy.

Did you miss the hearings? Don’t worry, you can submit your comments to the Department of the Interior right here about the importance of clean energy and preventing drilling off our coasts.

You can also watch video of the hearings and learn more about them on the Interior Department's website.

More TreeHugger posts on offshore energy development.

Offshore Drilling: Worth the Oil, or False Hope?
Santa Barbara County Reverses Position, (Again) Opposes Offshore ...
Three US West Coast Governors 'United In Opposition To Offshore ...

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