Offshore drilling foes, denied microphone, hold ralliesFebruary 14, 2018 10:16pm

HAMILTON, N.J. (AP) — With giant inflatable whales, signs that read "Drilling Is Killing" and chants of "Where's our meeting?" opponents of President Donald Trump's plan to open most of the nation's coastline to oil and natural gas drilling have staged boisterous rallies before public meetings held by the federal government on the topic.

That's because the public cannot speak to the assembled attendees at the meetings. The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is meeting one on one with interested parties and allows people to comment online, including typing comments on laptops it provides. People also can hand bureau officials written comments to be included in the record.

What they can't do is get up at a microphone and address the room.

That has led drilling opponents on both coasts to hold their own meetings before the official ones begin. The latest took place Wednesday in Hamilton, where one attendee wore a furry red lobster hat with claws protruding from both sides.

"They're dodging democracy," said Cindy Zipf, executive director of New Jersey's Clean Ocean Action environmental group, which held a citizens' hearing before the bureau meeting. "The government works for the people. I understand it's uncomfortable to have a bad idea and be held accountable for it, but that's what they're proposing."

The Republican president's decision last month to open most of the nation's coast to oil and gas drilling horrified environmentalists, and many elected officials from both major political parties oppose it. But energy groups and some business organizations support it as a way to become less dependent on foreign energy.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management's chief environmental officer, William Brown, said Congress has mandated five-year energy plans since the Arab oil crisis of the 1970s sent prices rising.

"The charge is to develop a program that provides for the energy needs of the United States, balancing environmental risk with energy need," Brown told The Associated Press. "We all know renewable energy is something we should develop more of, but renewables are not going to take the place of fossil fuels immediately. The people who are going to read your story are mostly using cars."

Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy addressed the environmental rally by video link before the bureau meeting Wednesday, sending a message to Trump: "You will not drill off our precious shores! No way!"

Bureau spokeswoman Tracey Blythe Moriarty said the open house format lets people speak directly with agency staff to learn about the drilling proposal.

"We find this approach to be more effective than formal oral testimony," she said.

But many attendees at past meetings disagree.

Environmentalists rallied on the steps of the California state capitol in Sacramento before a bureau hearing there, citing damage from a 1969 oil rig spill in Santa Barbara and a broken oil pipe in Refugio Beach three years ago. People upset at not being able to speak publicly chanted "Where's our hearing?"

The bureau set up informational displays at its Feb. 8 meeting, including one titled "Why Oil Is Important."

Before a Feb. 8 meeting in Tallahassee, Florida, drilling foes invoked the Deepwater Horizon disaster, which fouled the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, and said they want to ensure that Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's promise to exempt Florida from the drilling plan — the only exception publicly announced — remains in place.

In Oregon, some meeting attendees said bureau staff were unable to answer their questions about the drilling plan and were frustrated at being directed to a row of laptops to type out comments.

___

Follow Wayne Parry at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC

Page 1 of 1

More Stories Like This

Lawmakers battle over bill to prevent breaching of damsThree Republican U.S. House members from Washington state are upset with Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., for opposing their legislation that would prevent the breaching of four dams on the Snake River to protect endangered salmon runs
In this photo taken Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018, an Aldabra giant tortoise is seen on Curieuse island in the Seychelles. The tiny island nation of the Seychelles is announcing a pioneering marine conservation plan as part of a debt swap deal with creditors, designating nearly a third of its ocean waters as protected areas and aiming to ensure its unique biodiversity. (Tate Drucker/The Nature Conservancy via AP)
Seychelles swaps debt for groundbreaking marine protection
Judge agrees to halt construction of Louisiana oil pipelineA federal judge has agreed to suspend construction of a crude oil pipeline that is being built through a swamp in Louisiana's Cajun country
FILE - In this Sept. 29, 2017, file photo, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke speaks about the Trump Administration's energy policy at the Heritage Foundation in Washington. A second federal judge has rejected the Trump administration's efforts to delay an Obama-era regulation aimed at restricting harmful methane emissions from oil and gas production on federal lands. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)
Second judge says Trump can't keep stalling clean-air rules
The Latest: Dems say Interior changes a gift to industryU.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has changed a proposed overhaul of his department with a new organizational map that more closely follows state lines instead of the natural boundaries he initially proposed
FILE - In this Dec. 24, 2017, file photo, President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate is seen in Palm Beach, Fla. Special interests are holding meetings at properties owned by President Donald Trump, putting money in his pockets as they seek to influence his administration. An Associated Press analysis of the interest groups that visited Trump properties in the first year of his presidency found several instances that at least created the appearance of “pay for play.” (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)
Book Trump? Interest groups press case at his properties
This component is currently unavailable.
AdChoices

Related Searches

Related Searches

AdChoices