Environmentalists hit the beach to protest offshore drilling

By Andy Jenks - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

VIRGINIA BEACH, VA (WWBT) - Environmentalists take a stand against offshore drilling with a public protest on the sands of Virginia Beach.

As oil continues to spew from a leak beneath the Gulf of Mexico, activists here are warning of a possible similar disaster on the East coast. Fed up with Virginia's ongoing pursuit of offshore drilling, environmentalists today staged a mock oil spill and urged Gov. Bob McDonnell to consider a different kind of offshore energy.

Wayne Gonsorcik, of Stafford, and his young daughters, like the feel of the ocean. For them, and so many others, it's a place to relax, and enjoy the natural beauty.

"It's very serene. The tide, hearing it come in, rolling through...and something about having sand in your toes, man," Gonsorcik said.

But if you believe the environmentalists who laid a black tarp on the sand, it's all in danger. Maybe not now, but eventually.

"It represents an oil spill, and we're hoping folks start to envision what oil would look like on our coast," said Eileen Levandoski of the Sierra Club of Virginia.

About a dozen protestors called on Gov. Bob McDonnell to abandon a long-term goal of drilling for oil and natural gas 50 miles off the Virginia coast, and to focus on offshore wind power, instead.

"Oil is, there's just so little it's not worth the risk," Levandoski said.

Despite these efforts, and the ongoing Gulf disaster, the governor still favors offshore drilling, though, one day, he may have a bigger issue with the Navy which utilizes the same coastal waters.

A Naval spokesperson, Lt. Paul Macapagal, said, "We are fully committed to new energy initiatives, [but] it is too early to discuss potential impacts without knowing where drilling will occur."

What the governor faces probably isn't a tidal wave of opposition. But environmentalists hope for at least the chance to reconsider Virginia's wildlife and natural resources.

"All it takes is just one spill," Levandoski said.

The McDonnell team is still optimistic about offshore exploration by 2012, but even if that does happen, environmentalists say the economic impact would be far less than expected, and would not be realized until long after the Governor's term in office expires.

The federal government has delayed, indefinitely, meetings on Virginia offshore drilling while the Gulf disaster is investigated.

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