A Tale Of Two Meetings

San Francisco brought it's share of West Coast flair to the fourth and final round of public hearings on the future of the Outer {{{Continental}}} Shelf (OCS), held by Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

Some people dressed as polar bears and jelly fish, others in wetsuits covered in what looked like car oil, and at a lunchtime rally, protesters drew the media from Salazar's press conference outside into the world of opposition.

Not surprisingly the Surfrider Foundation, Save The Waves Coalition, Wildcoast, and the {{{Sierra}}} Club had members and officials alike filling the seats of Robertson Auditorium in Mission Bay. Perhaps more surprisingly was that members of Congress and the Governors of the West Coast states all showed up to staunchly oppose the offshore drilling on the OCS.

"We value the California Coast," said California Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi. "It's a spiritual thing for us and we do not want it fouled."

In fact, all of the elected officials whose comments made up the first portion of the meeting were unanimous in their opposition to oil rigs on the OCS and instead promoted (as Matt Walker predicted a few days ago: http://www.surfingmagazine.com/news/surfing-pulse/me-myselfand-bob-atlantic-city-offshore-continental-shelf-041409/) renewable energy sources such as wind, wave and tide energy.

Whereas in Atlantic City the conversation focused on offshore wind turbines, in San Francisco it focused more on the wave energy technology currently in development. However, every time someone would argue for an alternative form of energy, Salazar would ask: "How long until we start seeing results?"

Honestly, the answers were generally hazy, but advocates of renewable energy were adamant in the need to send a message that we as a country are changing our path of reliance on oil and gas.

By lunchtime it seemed like a blowout -- that the home team had won. Almost unanimously, people had voiced opposition to the development of the OCS and the two or so brave folks that wanted to drill were booed and hissed as they walked to their seat.

But after Salazar and the members of congress had jetted off to their next engagement, the crowd of opponents started to thin and more and more people seemed to speak in favor of OCS drilling. And unfortunately -- even though Salazar was no longer present -- all of the oil executives' remarks were made in time to go on public record and will thus be given the same weight, if not more, as the voices of people like Allison Chin, who is the president of the Sierra Club and was representing over a million members. After all, the oil guys have more money. One oil exec even presented the statistic that Exxon Mobile paid more taxes in 2008 than the bottom 75% of the U.S. population combined.

The tide seemed like it was turning in an even worse direction when a woman claimed she represented everyone in Santa Barbara and that they all wanted to drill on the OCS. Luckily, Chad Nelsen and more members of various Surfrider chapters and other opposition organizations -- who had waited for 10 hours to speak for those against OCS drilling in places like Santa Barbara -- had their chance to step up to make official statements.

"George Bush got one thing right when he said that Americans were addicted to oil," Nelson said. "I have yet to see an addiction recovery plan that says: 'Step one: If your dealer is nasty and prone to raise prices, you should start growing your supply at home.'"

Nelson went on to say that he was privileged enough to grow up in and around the ocean and that he wants the same privilege available to his twin boys.

At times, it felt like there were two meetings going on. Everyone seemed to have statistics of some sort or the other that proved that their idea was the right one, and other statistics proving the other side wrong.

But -- in this observers opinion -- who do you believe: someone looking to {{{finance}}} their fifth Mercedes and seven-figure salary? Or, someone looking to protect the purity of our playground, our church, our muse?

Dean LaTourrette put it well when he said: "[Drilling on the OCS] is too great a risk for too little a reward."

If you couldn't make it to the Thursday meeting and still want your voice heard, the public comment period on offshore drilling runs through September 21, 2009. You can comment online here:


Or write a letter to:

Ms. Renee Orr (5-Year Program Manager)
Minerals Management Service (MS-4010)
381 Elden Street
Herndon, VA 20170