Off­shore drilling foes, de­nied mi­cro­phone, hold ral­lies

Bu­reau al­lows only writ­ten com­ments, spark­ing protests.

Dayton Daily News - - FROM PAGE ONE - By Wayne Parry

With gi­ant HAMILTON, N.J. — in­flat­able whales, signs that read “Drilling Is Killing” and chants of “Where’s our meet­ing?” op­po­nents of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s plan to open most of the na­tion’s coast­line to oil and nat­u­ral gas drilling have staged bois­ter­ous ral­lies be­fore pub­lic meet­ings held by the fed­eral govern­ment on the topic.

That’s be­cause the pub­lic can­not speak to the as­sem­bled at­ten­dees at the meet­ings. The U.S. Bu­reau of Ocean En­ergy Man­age­ment is meet­ing one on one with in­ter­ested par­ties and al­lows peo­ple to com­ment on­line, in­clud­ing typ­ing com­ments on lap­tops it pro­vides. Peo­ple also can hand bu­reau of­fi­cials writ­ten com­ments to be in­cluded in the record.

What they can’t do is get up at a mi­cro­phone and ad­dress the room.

That has led drilling op­po­nents on both coasts to hold their own meet­ings be­fore the of­fi­cial ones be­gin. The lat­est took place Wed­nes­day in Hamilton, just out­side the state capi­tol of Tren­ton. One at­tendee wore a furry red lob­ster hat with claws pro­trud­ing from both sides.

“They’re dodg­ing democ­racy,” said Cindy Zipf, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of New Jersey’s Clean Ocean Ac­tion en­vi­ron­men­tal group, which was to hold a cit­i­zens’ hear­ing be­fore the bu­reau one be­gins. “The govern­ment works for the peo­ple. I un­der­stand it’s un­com­fort­able to have a bad idea and be held ac­count­able for it, but that’s what they’re propos­ing.”

The Repub­li­can pres­i­dent’s de­ci­sion last month to open most of the na­tion’s coast to oil and gas drilling hor­ri­fied en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists, and many elected of­fi­cials from both ma­jor po­lit­i­cal par­ties op­pose it. But en­ergy groups and some busi­ness or­ga­ni­za­tions sup­port it as a way to be­come less de­pen­dent on for­eign en­ergy.

The Bu­reau of Ocean En­ergy Man­age­ment’s chief en­vi­ron­men­tal of­fi­cer, Wil­liam Brown, said Congress has man­dated five-year en­ergy plans since the Arab oil cri­sis of the 1970s sent prices ris­ing.

“The charge is to de­velop a pro­gram that pro­vides for the en­ergy needs of the United States, bal­anc­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal risk with en­ergy need,” Brown told the As­so­ci­ated Press. “We all know re­new­able en­ergy is some­thing we should de­velop more of, but re­new­ables are not go­ing to take the place of fos­sil fu­els im­me­di­ately. The peo­ple who are go­ing to read your story are mostly us­ing cars.”

WAYNE PARRY / AP

Dur­ing a hear­ing Wed­nes­day in Hamilton, N.J., peo­ple protest Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s plan to al­low off­shore oil and gas drilling along the na­tion’s coast.

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