Norfolk students rally to protect coast from offshore drilling

environment climate changeOver 100 students came together on the Old Dominion University campus at a rally to protest the anticipated expansion of offshore drilling off the Atlantic coast.

Campus-goers were greeted by a 12-foot long, 6-foot tall inflatable whale just outside the Webb University Center accompanied by volunteers with information and signs who directed interested students and faculty inside to the rally.

The rally began with speakers present from from ODU student groups including VegODU, a student animal rights group and the Conservation Biology Club. The rally, which was put together by these groups in partnership with the Sierra Club Virginia Chapter, Businesses for Protecting the Atlantic Coast, Environment Virginia and Oceana Virginia, featured a variety of voices.

“Marine life would suffer deeply from the impacts of an oil spill,” Nasha Robertson, President of VegODU, said. Students including Robertson worked with the advocacy groups to put the rally together in response to current federal policy developments that put the Atlantic coast at risk for offshore drilling.

Speakers at the rally commented on the dangers of seismic blasting and offshore drilling for marine life and coastal industries. Seismic blasting is a method of searching for oil and gas that harms marine mammals and causes impacts including temporary and permanent hearing loss, abandonment of habitat, disruption of mating and feeding and even beach strandings and death.

“We have secured 20 resolutions from localities in VA opposing offshore drilling– the proposed plan is out of step with the voices of Virginia,” Terra Pascarosa, a campaign organizer with Oceana, said.

The rally was hosted in anticipation of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management release of a proposed 5-Year Oil and Gas Leasing Program, which could open most of the East Coast for offshore oil and gas drilling.  The release of this plan will be followed by a 90-day public comment period. In November, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued incidental harassment authorizations for the East Coast to allow companies use seismic blasting to locate oil and gas. Due to these authorizations, it is highly likely that Virginia will be included in the BOEM offshore drilling plan.

“The Trump administration has put Virginia back on the chopping block in terms of offshore drilling, and it is extremely important that the public demand that the Atlantic be removed from the next draft of the 5-year plan”, said I’esha Wynn, Conservation Program Manager of the Sierra Club Virginia Chapter.

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