What more fitting of a place is there to express concern and raise awareness about the risks of offshore drilling than on the sandy shores with a panoramic view of the Chesapeake Bay?
Saturday at 11 a.m. on Buckroe Beach in Hampton, concerned citizens will gather for the annual “Hands Across the Sand” event. Their goal is to bring attention about how offshore drilling poses a significant danger to three of Coastal Virginia’s biggest economic drivers: tourism, commercial fishing, and the region’s large military presence.
“We think it’s especially important this year since the Trump Administration has put offshore drilling for Virginia back on the table,” said Ann Creasy, community outreach coordinator based in Norfolk for the Sierra Club.
“From the perspective of tourism and fishing, and all of the businesses that are close to the oceanfront … we could lose much more money than would be gained if there was an oil spill,” she added.
The military, specifically the Navy, has expressed concern over the possibility of allowing oil rigs to be built off the coast and near the already busy shipping lanes that lead into and out of the Chesapeake Bay.
Karen Forget, executive director of Lynnhaven River NOW, said Virginia has a “pretty solid bloc” of support from politicians at the local, state, and national levels.
“Really this event is meant to educate the public, raise awareness, and demonstrate our resolve and our determination,” she said. “I don’t think the message we’re sending is cloudy at all.”
Gov. Ralph Northam has spoken out in opposition of President Donald Trump’s plans to expand offshore drilling, as has Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources Matt Strickler, who said in February the plan to drill off the coast of Virginia “poses a massive threat to our economy and our environment.”
It began after a tragedy
The Hands Across the Sand event began in 2010 after the devastating BP Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. That catastrophe created an oil slick that covered many thousands of square miles of water and polluted some 1,100 miles of shoreline from Florida to Louisiana.
“It’s hard to quantify the potential ramifications of such an event,” Creasy said.
There are also some unofficial rumblings that the Florida coast may be exempted from offshore drilling. If that were to happen, and Virginia wasn’t exempted, there’s a chance the Navy could find Florida’s ports more appealing and decide to relocate resources there, according to various national media reports.
Forget pointed out that if a spill similar to the BP Deepwater Horizon tragedy was to occur off the Virginia coast, it could devastate the shoreline and marine life from Maryland to Florida.