San Franciscans say ‘hell no’ to new offshore oil leases

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By Rebecca Bowe

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Photo by Christopher Chin / COARE

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar was welcomed to San Francisco last Thursday by a host of activists dressed as marine creatures, including a few diehards in head-to-toe polar bear costumes who were probably becoming endangered species themselves by standing out in the sun. At a public hearing called to solicit comments about a federal plan for new offshore-oil development, environmentalists and elected officials demanded that the new interior secretary reject new leases for oil drilling off the California coast.

Sen. Barbara Boxer called new offshore oil drilling “an environmental and economic disaster for California” and called for investment in green alternatives instead. Her statements were echoed by a host of congressional representatives, Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, and speakers from organizations such as the Sierra Club, the Center for Biological Diversity and others.

The five-year leasing program was a parting gift from the Bush administration. Salazar put it on hold so that he could hear from stakeholders in coastal regions. He's also shifted the focus from oil and gas exploration to possibilities for developing offshore renewable energy including wind, wave, and tidal power. But he noted that oil and gas development would remain on the table.

Look for the full story in the Guardian on Wednesday. In the meantime, the proposed plan can be found here. The Department of the Interior will accept public comments until September 21.