On Monday, Secretary Salazar hosted the first of four public hearings across the country about offshore drilling. The hearing was an enormous success as environmentalists from up and down the eastern seaboard travelled to Atlantic City to voice their opposition to drilling. The choice to hold the hearing in Atlantic City was a strategic one as New Jersey has one of the most robust tourist economies on the East Coast and thus stands to lose significant revenue if drilling occurs off its beaches.
The day was an exhaustive one, beginning at 8:30 in the morning and lasting until 5. The crowd was a healthy mix of representatives from environmental organizations, public citizens, as well as a large crowd from the oil and gas industry. The enviros, however, dominated the mood of the hearing, both in sheer numbers and applause at opportune moments. Representatives and volunteers from the Surfrider Foundation even organized to have a large group in the audience silently raise dollar bills whenever industry shills who stood to gain financially from drilling delivered their testimony.
The most impressive part of the hearing, however, was the active participation by the Secretary himself. Salazar was present for the first half of the day and read comment cards aloud, called on citizens to voice their comments, addressed concerns, and directly asked questions of the public. It was an amazing display by an Interior Secretary to be so involved with the issue and truly underscored his commitment to responsible development.
The second hearing is being held in New Orleans as I write this. The final two will be next week in Anchorage and San Francisco. Check out the Minerals Management Service website for more details on times and locations. And while you're at it, tell the Secretary and the MMS that offshore drilling is not the answer!