The U.S. Department of the Interior is holding several forums on offshore drilling along the Gulf Coast this week, and protesters let the government know how they felt in and outside those meetings (shown in the video above).
Without shouting or fighting, according to local TV and newspaper coverage, protesters made it clear they want the Obama administration’s moratorium on offshore drilling extended. The suspension was put in place back in July and will end on November 30.
Some, like Heather Emmert, believe more safety precautions are needed before the ban is lifted.
“It should last until we know those things are in place and that the industry has an appropriate system to be able to respond to a disaster if it does occur,” Emmert said. ” We are very concerned about what is happening in the Gulf.”
Protesters were allowed inside the forum on offshore drilling, but their signs were not. Mobile Police officers were there to make sure no one violated that rule.
Interior Department leaders listened to the protesters, but believe the drilling ban will be lifted.
“I’ve seen no information so far that would justify extending the moratorium nor have I been made aware of people gathering such information. So not impossible, but unlikely,” said Michael Bromwich, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement. “Obviously, we can’t predict everything that we will learn or will happen in the outside world before then, but Secretary Salazar saw November 30 was an appropriate ending point.”
According to the Mobile Sierra Club’s David Underhill, the federal Minerals Management Service — which did not manage the exploding BP well with a blowout preventer that did not prevent blowouts, which produced an oil “spill” that really resembled an oil geyser — has received bureaucratic cosmetic surgery. It is now the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement. And its new head, Michael Bromwich, held a hearing in Mobile Tuesday morning that was not a public hearing at all.
It was a “forum,” Underhill said, “where he listened in lordly fashion to opinions from chosen ‘experts’ and ‘leaders’ about deepwater drilling. But they were not to consider whether this drilling should cease.”
Instead, they spoke about (according to the official press release) “what additional measures are needed so that deepwater drilling can proceed in a manner that is safe.”
Citizens, who may have contrary views, were not invited to address this session, he said. “They were welcome merely to attend and sit in awed silence before the experts, leaders, and His Excellency Bromwich.”
“This is a staged ceremony designed to create the illusion of local agreement with a decision already made to resume risky operations that have done damage of a degree and duration not yet fully known,” Underhill said.
Tuesday’s public meeting was held at the Battlehouse Hotel in Mobile. There is another one Wednesday in Pensacola at New World Landing on Palafox Street, it will be begin at 9:00 a.m.
During the forums, Director Bromwich is being briefed by panels of experts from academia, the environmental community, and the oil and gas industry on technical issues related to deepwater drilling and workplace safety, well containment, and oil spill response. The forums also provide an opportunity for input from federal, state and local leaders on these same issues.
Additional forums will be held in August in Santa Barbara, California and Anchorage, Alaska. Meetings will be held in September in the following cities: Biloxi, Miss., Houston, Texas and Lafayette, Louisiana.
© 2010, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.