Public Meeting No. 4 – San Francisco / Part 2

Offshore drilling foes protest federal plan

Jane Kay, SF Chronicle Environment Writer

Surfers splashed with organic chocolate “oil spills” and environmentalists dressed as jellyfish and furry polar bears gathered in San Francisco on Thursday gave a theatrical message to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar: Don’t start new drilling off California’s coast.

In the fourth and last stop on Salazar’s national tour to hear public comment on his agency’s proposal to open up more than 1 billion acres for petroleum development off the nation’s coasts, he heard a resounding “no.”

A panel of congressional delegates, along with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Resources Secretary Mike Crisman, coastal county political leaders and citizens told Salazar they didn’t want the risk of spills and industrial activity for a short-term supply of crude oil.

Speaking for the Western States Petroleum Association, the trade group for the oil companies, Joe Sparano said petroleum development would boost California’s economy by creating jobs.

But U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer said California’s economy is based on tourism, fishing and recreational activities that are tied to a clean, thriving coast.

“Our state is saying to you clearly, ‘No,’ ” the Democrat told Salazar to a standing ovation from hundreds of people at the UCSF Mission Bay campus conference center.

Speakers said the state is developing solar and wind power, green jobs and energy efficiency, with a goal of reaching 20 percent from renewable sources by next year.

The state has leveled off its per-capita energy use as consumption has grown elsewhere in the nation, they said.

“It’s not what we’re against. It’s what we’re for. We’ve done it, we are doing it, and we’re going to go vastly forward,” said Assemblyman Wesley Chesbro, D-Arcata, whose district in Mendocino and Humboldt counties is part of the Interior Department’s proposal.

Salazar has not committed to which regions will be put forward for further study for leasing. But he promised that the administration will pay attention to the local communities. He expects a decision by the end of the year.


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