Protesters join hands on Corpus beaches, call for an end to drilling

Richard Sedita, a Houston nurse, makes his point with a placard.

Greg Harman

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CORPUS CHRISTI â?? Overlooking a still-unspoiled, leisure-as-usual beach scene below, dozens of protesters gathered beside the ear-rattling whine of a snow-cone stand's diesel generator to demand an end to offshore oil drilling.

It was one of three gatherings happening in Corpus for Saturday's Hands-Across-The-Sand demonstration that began in Florida but quickly went international. “This offshore drilling is not the way forward,” said state Sierra Club organizer Eva Hernandez. “It's too risky.”

While some attending supported the limited moratorium on new deep-water wells sought by the White House that would eliminate tens of thousands of related jobs, others wanted an end to all Gulf drilling. And, of course, there was anger to be vented about the ongoing horror that has been BP's foiled response and the fact of the still-gushing hole off the Louisiana coast. “It's really important that BP must pay every penny of the response cost,” Hernandez said, eliciting a cry from the group that temporarily drowned out noise of the generator.

“I want to see them stop drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and offshore, period, including Alaska,” said McAllen resident Sue Sill, 71, attending with her granddaughter. “And I want alternate fuels. I want â??em to spend the money they're giving to the oil companies on research to create the alternate energy sources we so desperately need and should have had decades ago.”

Daniel Lucio, of the Coastal Bend chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, suggests that the power of oil and gas is no longer as significant in Corpus Christi, and that the promise of green jobs is starting to bear fruit in Texas. Though the sizable 404-megawatt wind farm in nearby Kenedy County started spinning its turbines earlier this year, employing 20 full-time workers, nearly half of the Corpus Regional Economic Development Corporation's 33 “leading primary employers” for Corpus are still oil and gas related. That's thousands of jobs the clean-energy revolution will be challenged to replace.

A couple out of Omaha, Nebraska, crashed the Corpus event after spying some posts about it on Twitter during their Texas vacation. The two railed against a controversial pipeline that would cross Nebraska on the way to Houston and the Gulf of Mexico to help fuel China's continued development with oil from the Canadian tar sands. “Why would you want to drive through the Sand Hills of Nebraska looking a big fucking pipe?” one asked.

Chants of “Arrest BP!” and “No More Drilling!” forced their way into Shoreline Drive traffic, returning an occasional honk.

As the group moved closer to the water to link digits, most kept their eyes on the Gulf, where a couple drilling rigs were barely visible against the horizon's haze. “Since they have no plan to combat a blowout leak, which is obvious, `we need` a moratorium on new offshore drilling,” said Corpus resident Nancy Jones, 55.

Nearby college students from Kerrville had trouble formulating any opinion about the spill or the protesters. Fortunately, the Austin American-Statesman's editorial board waded into the jobs-versus-moratorium debate and came out with this conclusion:

There's more cause for confidence in BP's ability to pay for economic damages, such as job loss, than for confidence in any oil company's ability to deal with a major blowout and resulting spill.

Another gap worth considering involves that between the fiscal impact of a drilling ban, including an extended regulatory review, versus the current decimation of what has been, in many cases, a source of multi-generational employment. While rig work would resume in as few as six months, the massive spilling underway is expected to impact the health of Gulf fisheries â?? and those who fish them â?? for decades to come. The terrifying reality settling into Gulfside communities from Louisiana to Florida perhaps cannot be understated.

Hands-Across-The-Sand events were held across the U.S. and around the world, according to organizers.

Countries participating (with the number of gatherings) included:

Greenland, 1; Mexico, 5; Nicaragua 1; Costa Rica 2; Panama, 1; Dominican Republic, 1; Columbia, 2; Peru, 1; Brazil, 2; South Africa, 4; Tanzania, 1; Australia, 10; New Zealand, 2; Malaysia, 1; South Korea, 1; Japan, 3; India, 5; Bangladesh, 1; China 1; Turkey, 2; Greece, 1; Croatia, 1; Italy, 1; Spain, 1; France, 1; Germany, 3; Poland, 2; Netherlands, 1; United Kingdom, 7; Ireland, 4; Denmark, 1; Sweden, 2; Norway, 1.


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