Hundreds rally to protest Trump administration's offshore drilling plans

 
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SAN FRANCISCO - APRIL 16: Protestors against offshore drilling carry signs during a rally outside a public meeting on offshore drilling April 16, 2009 in San Francisco, California. U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar held a regional meeting to hear arguments from politicians and members of the public about oil drilling off of the coast of California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The Trump administration is taking comment on expanded oil drilling off the California coast, but the opportunity to "comment" left much to be desired for opponents. 

"Where's our hearing, where's our hearing?," chanted participants, who were disappointed to find no outlet for the public to speak on the proposals.

They raised their voices in what had been a quiet room three blocks from the state capitol.

For four hours Thursday afternoon, the Interior Department's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management held a "listening session".

"Save our coast, save our coast," was the message they heard shouted, loud and clear. 

The room was lined with informational booths and government staff, answering questions about the 26 areas being considered for new oil exploration. 

They include the Atlantic coast, the Gulf of Mexico, Alaska, and California. 

"It's asinine," laughed Joshua Wapner, who traveled to Sacramento from Santa Cruz, and expressed the prevailing opinion. "Why pollute our beaches with oil spills? Why continue our dependence on fossil fuels? It's ridiculous." 

Elected officials and environmental groups first staged a rally on the statehouse steps.

"For all the fishermen out there, all the surfers out there," they rallied the crowd.

"We love our coast, we've worked hard to restore and protect our coastal ecosystems," declared another speaker.  

Many warned of repeating Santa Barbara's spills: the disastrous oil rig blowout of 1969 and also 3 years ago, at Refugio Beach, a corroded pipe that spewed crude and polluted miles of coastline.    

"Not now, not here, not ever," shouted protesters, many hoisting signs and a few costumed as turtles, and polar bears. 

The noisy crowd marched to the federal venue, expecting a public hearing and testimony on the Trump proposals.

Instead people were let in a few at a time to gather facts and watch a promotional video, then submit their opinions online, laptops provided.  

Others wrote their comments on forms for that purpose. 

"I work as a deckhand on San Francisco Bay on a ferry boat," read Jennifer McCarthy, from her paragraph. 

"It definitely matters, if enough people get together, band together, and say we're not going to take this, it's crazy." 

The top Federal official in the room insists oil is part of energy independence, but notes some areas may be spared drilling based on what comes out of the sessions. 

"It's good people are here, and it's good their voices are heard, " said Bill Brown, Chief Environmental Officer at BOEM.

"We're not here to advocate anything. We're here to listen and get information on the environment. That's what it's all about." 

But the format, and the fact that there is only one meeting, held far from the coast, frustrates many. 

"We are the most affected by what they do and they don't want to come anywhere near us, " said Rachel Binah of Mendocino, who remembers the 1990s, when offshore drilling was last proposed, then abruptly dropped, after a boisterous Fort Bragg meeting.  

"5,000 people attended, and 1,400 of those signed up to speak, we had a filibuster that lasted three days, and they backed down," Binah recounted. 

Public comments can be submitted at regulations.gov

Drilling decisions are expected sometime next year.   
 

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