Washington residents took to the podium to voice their concerns on March 5th as part of a People’s Hearing organized by Surfrider and coalition partners. Following the cancellation of the first Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s (BOEM) “Open House” the event was rescheduled and moved to Olympia with Surfrider and other organizing partners once again planning for a People’s Hearing. Coalition partners wanted to allow Washingtonians the oppourtunity to voice their concerns publicly about a plan that would open up our coast to offshore oil and gas drilling, putting jobs and the environment at risk.
For a quick refresh, see this past blog post on the Trump administration’s proposal to open up 90% of the country’s continental shelf to offshore oil and gas drilling. The one and only BOEM meeting in Washington was scheduled for February 5th in Tacoma but was cancelled when the venue became concerned of protests. Given the dedication to make sure the public was aware of this proposal in the local and national press, those who were to be part of the planned February 5th press conference, were able to convene a press conference in the Governor’s conference room receiving widespread publicity.
When it was announced that the date and location of the rescheduled BOEM Open House was March 5th at the Olympia Red Lion, all steps were taken to secure a space in the same location. Knowing there was a need and desire of coastal residents and coastal enthusiast voices to show their opposition, a second press conference was scheduled to take place prior to the People’s Hearing which featured a welcoming from the Nisqually tribe and forceful comments about the proposal from elected officials and coastal industries.
The press conference 2.0 received local and national attention ranging from the Daily World, to King 5 News to the Washington Post. The People’s Hearing, with an expected crowd of about 100, reached well above that number and was a central feature of the day as individuals from all backgrounds and Washington communities voiced their opposition to offshore drilling. These comments were taken down by a paid stenographer and submitted as official comment.
The clear message from the press conference, from the People’s Hearing, from the constant messages whether in e-mails, comments, or social media to the Secretary of the Interior Zinke seems to have been noticed. Secretary Zinke recently stated, “The comment period has closed. I know where people are, and I certainly know where the state of Washington is. The state of Washington is deeply, passionately opposed to oil and gas drilling off their coast.” This is a sign of the continued and determined efforts of coastal communities passing city resolutions saying no to offshore drilling, to our statewide and federal elected officials making it known where they stand, to your everyday Washington resident submitting comments online. Whether it was speaking at the People’s Hearing, attending movie screenings to learn more about offshore drilling, or the Surfrider volunteers going to D.C. to speak with elected officials and show their dislike for the issue, many took a stand during the public comment period.
We thank everyone who did what they could during the recent comment period to stand up for our coastal jobs, environment, and way of life in Washington. Surfrider WA also sent in comments on behalf of all of our local chapters and members and will continue to work to keep this dangerous proposal in the forefront until Secretary Zinke makes the right decision to remove our coast as an option for drilling. For any questions or ways to get or stay involved, please contact WA Field Manager Brice Boland.