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Friday, May 17, 2019

Opponents of offshore drilling join 'Hands Across the Sand' on 30 Florida beaches

Posted By on Fri, May 17, 2019 at 4:30 PM

  • photo via Hands Across the Sand on Facebook
Activists and environmental groups will join hands on the beach on Saturday for a midday synchronized event across 95 worldwide locations. Promoting renewable energy and protesting Trump administration plans to roll back coastal protections, Hands Across the Sand is being promoted as especially important this year.

The event was founded by Surfrider Foundation member Dave Rauschkolb in 2009 as a series of protests against oil drilling in the near and off shores of Florida. Today, the event “brings people together to oppose new offshore drilling and other fossil fuel development, and to promote a clean energy future” across the globe.

The Trump administration has proposed dramatic expansions of oil and gas development off the Pacific coast, Atlantic coast, Gulf of Mexico and Alaska. The Department of the Interior plan would add new offshore drilling to over 90% of U.S. waters and eliminate Obama-era offshore-drilling safety regulations intended to prevent a repeat of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion, the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

Coinciding with the near-anniversary of the April 20, 2010, disaster, which killed 11 people and dumped 4 million barrels of oil in the Gulf of Mexico for at least 87 days, Hands Across the Sand will take place at Daytona Beach and at other Florida beaches including Pensacola Beach, Miami Beach, Dania Beach, Paradise Beach, Stuart Beach, and Jacksonville.

The proposed federal rollbacks would end Obama-era safety regulations created after Deepwater Horizon, specifically safety measures meant to keep offshore oil and gas wells from "blowing out," or suddenly and uncontrollably releasing crude oil.

By joining hands on Florida’s beaches and other outdoor global gathering spots, the group hopes to intensify calls to legislators to abandon the changes. Recently announced delays to the new proposals are energizing activists, who hope it is a sign of growing political pressure against risking new environmental catastrophes.

Organizers reported a first-time turnout of 10,000 Floridians across 90 beaches in February of 2010, calling it “the largest gathering in the history of Florida united against expanding oil drilling into Florida’s waters.” Then, a few months later, Deepwater Horizon occurred, which turned the event global.

After another coastal call to action, more than 1,000 different gatherings sprang up in all 50 states, and in 42 countries beyond the U.S. That event on June 26, 2010, event made “Hands” an annual clapback against disastrous environmental politics. Event organizers hope to draw metaphorical and actual lines in the sand, human lines in the sand against the threats of “filthy fossil fuels.”

Last year’s Hands Across the Sand took place across 124 events in 18 states and seven countries. With offshore drilling posing an even greater threat to Florida than tar sands extraction or hydraulic fracking, organizers hope to set a new attendance record this year.

The Surfrider Foundation sponsors the event, along with Oceana, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, League of Conservation Voters, Earthjustice, SoWal, Healthy Gulf, Urban Paradise Guild, and Bud and Alley’s.

If you’re headed to the beach on Saturday, check in begins about hour before the event, which takes place at 12 p.m. (noon) EST in Florida and worldwide. Some locations, like the Hands Across the Sand Rally in Daytona Beach, begin with a 10 a.m. beach cleanup, before photos, 15 minutes of joining hands and a picnic. The Jacksonville Beach Pier event will host a speaking program with local environmentalists and elected officials.

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