As the Gulf Coast oil catastrophe quickly grows into one of the largest environmental disasters in United States history, Hampton Roads residents rallied in Virginia Beach on Friday to call for a permanent moratorium on offshore drilling and a renewed focus on developing wind farms off Virginia’s coasts instead.
“The Gulf Coast oil spill disaster is a tragic reminder that the price of offshore oil drilling is far too high,” said Chelsea Harnish with the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. “A similar spill off Virginia Beach could reach as far north as Delaware and affect our national treasure, the Chesapeake Bay.”
Virginia is on track to become the first state on the East Coast to open its shores to offshore oil drilling following Bush-era roll back of moratoriums protecting Atlantic drilling. To demonstrate the risk posed by offshore oil drilling, participants staged a mock “oil slick” at Virginia Beach’s oceanfront.
In light of the tremendous safety concerns raised by the Gulf Coast oil spill, the Obama Administration announced Thursday it was suspending a proposed oil lease sale off Virginia’s coastline. Rally participants said they were encouraged by the announcement but continued to stress the importance of a permanent moratorium on offshore oil drilling and a re-doubling of efforts to develop wind farms off Virginia’s coast instead.
“Governor McDonnell just doesn’t get it,” said Eileen Levandoski, a spokesperson for the Sierra Club who lives in Virginia Beach. “At the same time the nation is focused on the oil spill catastrophe in the gulf, McDonnell is courting oil executives to drill Virginia,” said Levandoski, referring the Governor’s visit to a Houston, TX oil convention the Governor attended last weekend.
Residents used black plastic and yellow caution tape to stage a mock oil spill and show why we need a moratorium on drilling off our coasts.
“Risky oil platforms along the Commonwealth’s coast will only bring a few days worth of U.S. oil supply at best,” said CCAN Director Mike Tidwell. “We need a permanent commitment of offshore Virginia wind energy, which could power 3.6 million electric cars, and a permanent moratorium on dangerous crude oil ‘Russian roulette’ in the state.”
“Governor McDonnell needs to refocus his attention on offshore wind. Virginia has natural advantages in developing offshore wind, a great port and consistently strong winds in shallow waters off our coast”, said Levandoski. “With his withdrawal from the Governor’s Offshore Wind Energy Coalition, Virginia falls behind states like Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and even North Carolina in the race to a clean energy future. McDonnell is sabotaging that future.”
The gathering in Virginia Beach was part of a massive grassroots movement taking place around the country, of communities calling for an end to offshore drilling and the need to move towards a clean energy future. Over 50 protests nationwide are expected.
-Daily Press (Newport News, VA) on protests: http://articles.dailypress.com/2010-05-08/news/dp-local_drilling-protest_0508may08_1_drilling-offshore-wind-farms