‘No Way, No How’ to Offshore Drilling, Treasure Island Mayor Says
By SHELLY STECK REALE, Correspondent, TB Reporter
Concerned residents, activists and public officials came to Treasure Island on Saturday to join hands against offshore drilling.
TREASURE ISLAND – Most came by car – others pedaled miles on bicycles – to join hands Saturday (May 20) to show their love for the beaches and ocean and their opposition to offshore drilling.
“The vampire is still alive,” St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman said of offshore drilling. “And we still need to put that stake in its heart.”
He added, “Government can’t do it alone. The community can’t do it alone. It’s all of us coming together as one, and speaking with one loud voice.”
Kriseman was one of several public officials and community activists who urged participants to contact federal and state officials to let them know that the risks to the environment and economy of offshore drilling are unacceptable.
The Treasure Island rally was one of four scheduled in Pinellas County on Saturday. The others were on Indian Rocks Beach, Clearwater Beach and Tarpon Springs. It was also one of 26 in Florida and hundreds in 17 other states and three countries around the world.
Hands Across the Sand was created in response to an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform seven years ago that killed 11 workers and spewed millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. It was the single largest marine oil spill in U.S. history, with devastating effects on the businesses, communities, and wildlife that depend on the warm waters of the Gulf. This year’s rally had an added urgency coming on the heels of President Donald Trump’s April executive order that opens the door to expanded offshore drilling in the Atlantic and Arctic oceans and in the western and central Gulf of Mexico.
Jennifer Rubiello, state director for Environment Florida and a co-organizer for the Treasure Island rally, said the event is not partisan.
“There are people here from different parties, different backgrounds, and interests, who may even champion other things,” Rubiello said. “They’re here because they care about our beaches. We have some of the most beautiful coasts in the whole world and we just can’t let dirty fuels ruin them.”
St. Petersburg resident, Diana Stem came with her 9-year-old daughter, Adriana.
“We love our beaches. And we want to protect what we love; our beaches, our water, and our way of life,” Stem said.
Adriana had her own reason for joining her mom. Her concern was the drilling.
“It kills all types of animal in the ocean, so it’s important to be here,” Adriana said.
Lisa Frank of the Florida Consumer Action Network, along with the Sierra Club, organized a caravan of more than 25 cyclists who biked from central St. Petersburg to Treasure Island.
“This event is all about saying we want to support clean fuels, not dirty fossil fuels that threaten our coast,” Frank said. “So, one thing that individuals can do right now to stop using less fossil fuels is to start riding our bikes places.”
Public officials also turned out to join hands with residents. Among them were Treasure Island Mayor Robert Minning and state Rep. Kathleen Peters, R-Treasure Island. U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-FL, was not there but sent a statement for Rubiello to read.
“Contact your legislators, your congressmen, your senators; let them know that absolutely no way, no how, cold day in hell when we ever have offshore drilling here in Florida,” Minning said.
Peters championed the use of solar and other renewable energies, including advances in hydroelectricity using wave power.
Sierra Club senior organizing manager Frank Jackalone spoke of the hazards of airgun blasting, loud blasts of compressed air shot through the water and miles into the seabed to identify potential oil and gas deposits hidden deep beneath the ocean floor. Proponents say seismic airgun blasting does not adversely affect marine life. The use of seismic air gun blasting was included in Trump’s offshore drilling executive order.
“This can be heard by dolphins, and whales, and other sea critters from over 2,500 miles away,” Jackalone said. “These blasts are every 10 seconds, 24 hours a day. This will kill our dolphins and whales; it will disrupt our sea life, our fisheries. We cannot allow this to happen.”
The crowd cheered as the speakers finished, then, locking arms and grasping hands, they made their way down the beach to the seashore. They chanted “We want clean. We want green. Leave the Gulf alone.”
The chain spanned more than 500 feet down the shoreline.After about 20 minutes, the rally was over.
Before heading back, Gulfport resident Mel Donovan, 68, paused at the waves breaking at her feet.
“I have a 10-year-old granddaughter,” Donovan said. “I want her to be able to enjoy this, and I want her children to be able to enjoy this. With the risk of spill damage to the environment, I think it’s a lose-lose situation for us to be drilling.”
For information about Hands Across the Sand, go to handsacrossthesand.com.
Photos by Shelly Steck Reale, TB Reporter Correspondent
Hands Across the Sand | Environment | Environment Florida | Sierra Club | Offshore Drilling | Tampa Bay News | TB Reporter
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