Environmental groups are planning a demonstration this coming weekend at Neptune Park to highlight opposition to offshore drilling in Hampton Roads.
Hands Across the Sand is an annual event held on beaches across the world to highlight the dangers of offshore drilling and to show solidarity among coastal communities.
Hands Across the Sand started as a small event in Florida but grew in scale after the BP Deep Water Horizon disaster. Last month was the 5th anniversary of the BP Deep Water Horizon oil spill that happened in the Gulf of Mexico. As you probably know, the explosion of the drilling rig killed 11 people and the oil gushed from the sea floor for 87 days.
Estimates are that over 200 million gallons of oil was released into the Gulf of Mexico, thousands of marine animals were killed and billions of dollars in economic activity were lost. People on the Gulf Coast are still dealing with the aftermath of the spill. We now know that much of that oil is still there. Here we are 5 years later and it still washes up on shore from time to time.
This year is also the anniversary of another gigantic offshore oil disaster, the destruction of Taylor Energy’s Mississippi Canyon 20-A drilling platform. Never heard of this one? Neither had I until last month when it got some brief media coverage. This is a situation similar to the BP Deep Water “spill” in that it isn’t really a spill but is actually an oil well that the industry is unable to plug. The Taylor Energy well has been leaking for 11 years…yes this oil well has been leaking in the Gulf of Mexico for over a decade.
These are just a couple of examples of what can happen when Big Oil comes to town. The Louisiana coast and much of the Gulf Coast has been polluted and poisoned by industry for decades. In Louisiana, where Big Oil is king, there are 1,000s of spills reported each year, and many more that go unreported. You can’t have offshore drilling without the onshore infrastructure needed to process the oil, and that means oil refineries, oil pipelines, oil trains, and storage/export facilities. This infrastructure would drastically change the face of our coastline and make offshore drilling an even more risky move for the Commonwealth. Not to mention that burning more oil contributes to climate change which is fueling sea level rise here in Hampton Roads at an accelerated rate. We’ve got to keep the fossil fuels in the ground.
Despite the known risks of oil spills, especially in offshore drilling operations, the federal government through the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has proposed a new plan to allow offshore drilling off the Atlantic Coast. The plan includes federal waters from Virginia South and puts thousands of miles of coastline at risk.
Communities up and down the Atlantic Coast have come out against offshore drilling, from Charleston, South Carolina to Savannah, Georgia citing the risk of spills to their economies and Virginia Beach seems poised to join them. The city’s Resort Advisory Commission, Hotel Association, and Restaurant Association have all spoken out in opposition to offshore drilling, putting pressure on city council and the mayor to follow suit.
This year’s event will be in Virginia Beach near Neptune’s Park where 31st Street meets the beach. The event will start at 11:30 a.m. with a mock oil spill and opportunities to speak with organizers from multiple environmental organizations working on the issue. At noon there will be some brief remarks from event organizers and representatives of environmental groups and then around 12:15 the human line in the sand will begin to take shape. The event in Virginia Beach will be held simultaneously along with dozens of others across the world. So come out to the beach for an hour on a beautiful Saturday to show your opposition to drilling.