Hundreds of clean-ocean advocates held hands in a line across the Huntington Beach shoreline Saturday, in a local demonstration against offshore oil and gas drilling that was repeated at other beach protests around the world.
It was all part of Hands Across the Sand, which began in 2010 and has since become an international event. Saturday’s high-noon action, which was held on the shoreline south of the Pacific Coast Highway and Newland Avenue parking lot entrance, was aimed “to push back against President Trump’s efforts to open up almost all federal waters to oil and gas drilling, which would affect our iconic coast line,” according to Nancy Downes of Oceana, which organized the local gathering.
Addressing those who had turned out to hold hands on the sand, Downes reminded locals that they were taking part in a global event “to say no to more offshore oil drilling and yes to clean-energy solutions.” After pausing briefly to recognize and respect the bands of Native Americans who considered the sand Downes was standing on “a sacred place,” she said Hands Across the Sand is aimed at moving our current leaders “toward clean, renewable energy and away from dirty fossil fuels.”
Before the gathering, Oceana organizers noted that “on Jan. 4, 2018, the Trump administration released the 2019-2024 draft proposed program for offshore oil and gas drilling, which proposed to offer lease sales in almost all federal waters, including the first fossil fuel leases in the Pacific in more than 30 years. The proposal has been met by fierce opposition by elected leaders, communities and businesses in every West Coast state. California is among half a dozen states that have passed legislation or amendments to restrict oil and gas drilling off their coasts. Almost 100 cities and counties in California have taken action to say no to expanded offshore drilling, and more than 3,800 businesses have formed an alliance to protect the Pacific. While President Trump may have recently delayed plans to radically expand offshore drilling to new areas, coastal communities, business owners and elected officials remain vigilant in their calls to protect our coast until the decision is final.
“In California, a massive oil spill in 1969 devastated Santa Barbara’s coastal habitat and set in motion bipartisan support for a ban on new drilling in state waters that became law in 1994. The practice remains deeply unpopular in California, where coastal tourism, recreation and fishing generate more than $42 billion a year and support nearly 600,000 jobs.”
Addressing the crowd, Downes noted there exists a feeling that other parts of the country are “going backwards” lately, but she pointed to “the positive progress is the last six months in Orange County.”
Every congressional district was won by a Democrat in November 2018, and among the freshman is Rep. Harley Rouda (D-Laguna Beach), whose 48th congressional district includes the Huntington Beach site. Explaining he could not make the turnaround from Washington, D.C., in time to appear at Hands Across the Sand, Rouda’s District Director Laura Oatman showed up instead.
Saying that, as a child, the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill turned her into an “ocean warrior,” Oatnam said, “Thank goodness we got rid of that climate-change denier who was in the pockets of fossil fuel providers, Dana Rohrabacher.” Near the end of his losing reelection campaign, Rohrabacher called for more offshore oil drilling.
Oatman noted that Rouda–who she initially challenged for the Democratic nomination before dropping out of the primary race and throwing her support to him–now chairs the House Oversight Committee’s Subcommittee on the Environment, making him the “watchdog” over Trump appointees plucked from the fossil-fuel industry.
“It’s the activism of people like you here on this beach today that is changing the narrative,” Oatman said. “The solution to climate change is complicated, but one thing we know for sure is increasing oil an gas drilling off our shore is not the answer.” She called Hands Across the Sand “literally and figuratively a line in the sand” against more drilling.
Vipe Desai, founding member of the Business Alliance for Protecting the Pacific Coast, told the crowd, “There are so many reasons to protect our ocean besides the little critters sharing our beach with us today. The ocean is also important to our coastal communities; it is the economic engine that provides us and affords us the quality of life we enjoy on a regular basis.”
Oil spills, Desai said, first harm “mom and pop businesses,” such as the ones lining Main Street near Huntington Beach Pier. And many of them, he added, are tuned in to the importance of preventing another disaster. “Elections have consequences,” Desai said. “We know what happened in 2016 and we know what happened in 2018. People are rising up. Leaders are hearing what people are saying.”
He claimed his alliance includes representatives from 3,800 businesses in California, Oregon and Washington “that are opposed to this administration’s proposed plan to drill off our coast. It’s bad for business.”
Click on the links to watch video of the speeches:
OC Weekly Editor-in-Chief Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the alternative newsweekly’s first calendar editor.