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East Bay residents protest offshore drilling

Submitted by on 1, June 28, 2010 – 4:45 amOne Comment

Photo by Paul Seger.

By Heather Lyn Wood

On Saturday, 120 East Bay residents gathered at Robert W. Crown Memorial State Beach to send a strong message to policymakers in the wake of the BP oil disaster: “No to offshore oil drilling; yes to clean energy.”  Arms linked, participants urged the growth of clean energy, renewable industries and a sustainable transportation system.

The beach gathering was part of a national event organized by the nonprofit Hands Across the Sand.

Hands held its first statewide gathering in February to protest Congressional efforts to lift the ban on drilling off the shore of Florida. Just two months later, an explosion on the now-infamous Deepwater Horizon rig killed 11 crewmen and then sank, leaving an oil well gushing six miles below the ocean’s surface. The well is located at a depth greater than the height of Mount Everest and pumps up to 100,000 barrels of oil per day into the Gulf of Mexico.

Even before the spill, decision makers on both sides of the drilling controversy agreed that the nation’s energy future had reached a crossroads. Live images of oil spewing into the marine ecosystem have brought new urgency to the issue.

It was this recent crisis that brought Oakland resident Lia Fernandez out to the beach on Saturday.

“I’m thoroughly disgusted with the oil spill that occurred,” said Fernandez. “I have felt that this has been coming, but unless you make it personal, people don’t get it. As bad as the spill is, it is forcing people to pay attention to the issue.”

Fernandez and the other beachgoers carried signs and sung a song about clean energy that had been written for the event.

Hands Across The Sand is endorsed by the Sierra Club, Audubon, and Greenpeace, among other environmental groups. These groups argue that access to fossil fuel does not justify the risk to coastal economies and the marine environment posed by deepwater drilling.

Fernandez hopes that events like Hands Across the Sand will raise public awareness about the danger of offshore drilling.

“People just have to see that there are safer alternatives,” she said.

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