Locals unite at Fort Lauderdale beach against oil drilling offshore
To the backdrop of a stunning turquoise ocean, peaceful protestors gathered along 70-plus beaches across the state of Florida to protest drilling in offshore. In Fort Lauderdale, it especially hit home as the city’s commissioners prepare to vote on a resolution opposing offshore drilling in Florida waters.
Several hundred Broward residents gathered at the heart of Fort Lauderdale beaches, the Las Olas intersection, which is widely known to locals and tourists alike. While the cooler weather kept some away, the beach broadwalk was still bustling (hey, us native Floridians freeze around 65 degrees—it’s not in our body chemistry to be out in the cold), and protestors gathered for “Hands Across the Sands—No to Oil Drilling.”
“This is our first ever in Fort Lauderdale,” said Matt Schwartz, the local organizer. “They want to drill and there’s nothing safe, nothing 100 percent. It’ll make a lot of money, but I doubt it’ll save at the gas pump.”
Schwartz organized the event because, as he says in Broward County Environmental Meetup group that “Florida legislators plus the U.S. Congress are being courted by big oil lobbyists anxious to open Florida’s state and federal waters to oil rigs starting just 3 miles off our shores. Even with the most advanced technology, spills and accidents can and do happen. Our beaches, marine ecosystem and tourist based economy are all at risk!”
The crowd easily lined up along the shoreline with signs reading “Broward residents say no to oil” and “We Love Tourists and Not Oil,” or “Solar not oil.”
According to a report by Florida Atlantic University, Southeast Florida, which runs from Palm Beach to the Florida Keys, tourists to the beach area spent $9.1 billion annually, with a statewide $19.3 billion annually spent by beach tourists as of July 2006. Out-of-state beach tourists paid about $600 million in state sales taxes and created more than 500,000 jobs, according to this report. Schwartz said statewide businesses are concerned about the impact oil drilling would have on tourism and Florida beaches. Indeed, the Hands Event was initiated through the Surfrider Foundation by one owner in North Florida concerned about the impact on the beaches and on his business.
“We need to let the state know this is not acceptable—the beach is too important to everyone here,” explained Schwartz. “In Florida, there are no incentives left for solar energy—the Gulf Stream runs constantly—and it’s (more solar capability) is just not being developed.”
Schwartz also said the recent Supreme Court ruling that corporations could give unlimited amounts of money to politicians means that oil money will be flowing to them.
Politicians in Washington D.C. have been considering releases the moratorium offshore of Florida on oil drilling, however there has been no official action as of yet. This group hopes to prevent the moratorium from being released, and state legislators allowing drilling in exchange for the revenue from it.
Michael O’Brien, an environmental activist since 1988 in Broward County and co-founder and former director of the Green League of Broward, said it’s extremely important that people come out to the Fort Lauderdale commission meeting Tuesday night.
“This resolution will authorize city officials to make their position known to state legislators,” said O’Brien.
Another Fort Lauderdale resident, Eric Yankwitt, who runs FloridaCommunitySupport.org, said the issue is very important.
“I moved here from New York…and we identify Florida with the beach, not oil wells,” said Yankwitt. “If we spent as much time as we do investing in oil and develop other energy sources—wind, solar—we could get rid of foreign oils. But oil spills hurt.”
Barbra Stern, who is running for Florida House seat 91, is a native Floridian who agreed with Yankwitt, saying the beach is what draws people.
“I don’t want to see it destroyed—we’ve lost so much to hurricanes and erosion—we don’t want to see drilling,” said Stern. “The Florida House passed it, and the Senate stopped it with the good sense to say no. We can’t afford an accidental spill.”
And that was the message activists hoped to get across to residents in South Florida, and even the tourists.
“We have such a beautiful beach—we can’t take a chance an oil spill will ruin it—it’s not worth it,” said Gene Massagee with the Broward Sierra Club. “Someone has to speak up and bring attention to this issue.”
Learn more at: http://www.surfrider.org/broward/ or http://www.flcoastalandocean.org/.
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- Florida legislation asks Congress to remove offshore drilling moratorium
- South Floridians ask legislators for vote on offshore drilling
- Broward County Creates New Artificial Reef Offshore Fort Lauderdale
- Gas bubble cause of Deepwater Horizon explosion, Climate bill still includes offshore oil drilling
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Thanks for the write-up!