Hand-In-Hand To Stop Oil Drilling Off Florida

"Hands Across the Sand" protests legislative effort by oil industry

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February 13 was an amazing day in Florida. Wearing black to symbolize an oil spill, thousands of people took to the state’s beaches in a massive "Hands Across the Sand" statewide protest opposing offshore oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

We formed human chains to protect the state’s famous white-sand beaches, and sent a message to our state Legislature that Floridians don’t support oil drilling—especially in a state with an economy that runs on tourist business.

The turnout was wonderful – potesters showed up at more than 80 different beaches, from Jacksonville to Key West to Tampa and all the way up the state’s west coast to Pensacola. It was an awe-inspiring sight to see all those Floridians joining together to let legislators know that the people don’t want oil rigs off Florida’s coast. They aren’t buying the empty promises being peddled by the high-priced oil lobbyists.

Last year, the state House of Representatives passed a bill that would have allowed oil rigs three to 10 miles from Florida’s Gulf coast. The bill died in the Senate. This year, a group of oil companies that won’t identify itself is back, spreading around campaign cash, hiring lobbyists and pushing the Legislature for permission to drill.

The simple, nonpartisan "Hands Across The Sand" protest was the brainchild of Dave Rauschkolb, a surfer who owns Bud & Alley’s restaurant in the North Florida community of Seaside. It was a great idea and, as great ideas do, it spread!

Florida’s Legislature convenes March 1, and we’re hearing that the Florida House wants to pass a drilling bill, but leadership in the state Senate isn’t interested. We hope that’s true, but we’re staying on our toes. We’ll keep you posted.

David Guest worked at Earthjustice from 1990 to 2016, as the managing attorney of the Florida regional office. His countless legal battles were, in one way or another, all about water. His motivation to protect Florida’s water came from years of running boats in the state’s rivers and lakes, which convinced him that waterways are many people’s spiritual connection to nature.