Tamarah Williams supports a federal ban on drilling for oil off Virginia’s coast. "I think it’s great what they’re doing," she said, pointing to a crowd of about 75 who had joined hands Saturday at the Oceanfront in opposition of offshore drilling and in support of wind energy. "But I have to meet somebody for lunch."
A year ago, more than 1,000 people linked hands in Virginia Beach during the inaugural Hands Across the Sand protest, staged at coastal cities around the world in response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. If Saturday’s protest and Williams’ reaction were indications, some of the outrage over the spill has dissolved.
"We knew it would be difficult to duplicate last year’s crowd," Eileen Levandoski of the Virginia Sierra Club said. "The story has probably faded from some people’s minds, but it’s no less important."
High gasoline prices have put pressure on President Barack Obama and Congress to increase domestic oil production, Levandoski said, but it would be up to 10 years before any oil is pumped out of new offshore wells. It’s not worth the risk, she said.
"We could drill everywhere including Gov. Bob McDonnell’s backyard, and it wouldn’t have a major impact on fuel prices," Levandoski said, taking a jab at the Republican governor for his support of offshore drilling.
Franco Sferrella, a 17-year-old student at Kempsville High School, attended the protest because he fears a major spill could ruin the beaches.
"I believe you’ve got to protect those with no voice," he said. "Not just for the ocean and beaches, but for wildlife and future generations."
Ed Paul attended the protest with mixed views. The 36-year-old pastor said he supports wind energy but also thinks offshore oil drilling could be done without harming the environment. "I support an all-of-the-above approach," he said.
Attendees at the rally signed two petitions, one demanding Congress turn down efforts to expand domestic oil production and another urging Dominion Virginia Power to invest in offshore wind farm plants. Participants chanted "mills, not drills" and "save our beaches" for 12 minutes as they held hands along the beach at 24th Street.
"We have a great resource off the coast of Virginia, but it’s not oil," event organizer Rebecca Glenn shouted into a megaphone. "Wind energy does not spill."
Mike Hixenbaugh, www.pilotonline.com