OCR Intern Chris Chin, Director Michael Stocker, and
Communication Director Daniela Huson
Rallies and demonstrations are a part of the conservation landscape we typically leave to advocacy groups more honed to these activities. But as we are now in extraordinary times – when science is relegated to an “opinion” and lying is measured in degrees, not as a dichotomous threshold, it behooves us to draw up our banners and demonstrate.
The matter at hand is whether we are going to let the Department of Interior hand the management of the entire Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) over to the oil industry. For OCR the equation is simple; if the proponents of this idiot proposal will not listen to science – and dismiss public opinion as being irrelevant, then we must figure out some way to make “The Deciders” uncomfortable.
Until a few years ago this was easy. Under the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA), when the Federal Government proposes a program that would impact the socioeconomic or environmental value of assets collectively “owned” by American taxpayers, they need to present their case to the public and give the public an opportunity to express ourselves about the proposal in writing, but also in public hearings.
Until recently these hearings were conducted in a “Town Hall” style wherein citizens would line up behind a microphone and each take a couple of minutes to address staff from the proposing or regulating agency with their concerns. As the proposals increasingly catered to Industry at the expense of the pubic (and our cherished environment) these Town Hall meetings were getting pretty uncomfortable for the folks sitting in the front of the room.
In response, the Agencies have taken to a format the call “listening sessions,” whereby agency staff conversant in the various aspects of the proposal stand by a table with handouts to “listen” to the public comments and answer questions. This makes for deliberately mushy events where the gestalt of the public is diffused in the din of the crowd.
This last Thursday the OCS proposal was aired up in Sacramento. Preceded by a rousing rally at the State Capitol, some 800 demonstrators listened as First Nations tribal leaders, elected officials, and environmental spokespersons unified the crowd before marching over to the City Library where the “listening session” was taking place.
The venue for the “listening session” was a highly reverberant room (further muddying up the conversations) with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management career staff doing their best to present the proposal under the remit of BOEM – while encouraging the public to express our opinions in detail to the agency. While there were a couple of attending staff members from the agency who may have supported the proposal, the sense I got from my conversations was that they were trying hard to not let their eye-rolling appear too obvious.
The proposal is, nonetheless, a serious threat to our ocean. While the vehement opposition from coastal states Governors, elected officials, businesses, and the public will definitely curb much of the proposed damage, the outrageous scope of their proposal follows an old “negotiating” stunt employed by thugs; if they demand our lives, it is likely that they will get our wallets – for which we will feel relieved.
Please take a few moments and express yourself to the agency. The more comments they get, the more they will need to wade through when the lawsuits begin.
The webpage for comments is here: https://www.regulations.gov/comment?D=BOEM-2017-0074-0001
We have until March 9 to lodge our opinions. The more details the better; and BOEM staff at the event suggested that the more localized expressions carry greater weight on their scales than general perspectives.