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Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Oil Drilling Opponents Rally Along FL Beaches

TALLAHASSEE, FL - Thousands plan to join hands Saturday along Florida beaches for the second annual "Hands Across the Sand" event, meant to demonstrate opposition to expanded coastal and offshore drilling as well as support for clean-energy choices.

The Gulf Restoration Network (GRN) is joining the lines this year. The group's Florida director, Darden Rice, says the idea is to keep up pressure to protect Florida's coasts and tourism economy and to call for alternative energy solutions such as solar power.

Congress is proposing dramatic increases to offshore drilling but has done nothing to implement any safety recommendations from the Oil Spill Commission, Rice says. Likewise, he says, plans to drill in state waters will loom over the Legislature's agenda in January.

"GRN is taking the lead on organizing it in the St. Pete Beach area. We are also organizing follow-up activist training."

Offshore drilling will never be safe, claims Hands Across The Sand activist Karen Dugo, adding that the oceans are just too important to risk. Dugo is hosting a rally on pristine Wakulla Beach in Florida's Big Bend region.

"There are many small fishermen who put in off Wakulla's coastline, and they are having a really bad time sustaining their lifestyle."

Floridians have particular concerns about offshore drilling, Dugo says. Tourism is the state's No. 1 industry, she says, and even a hint of oil pollution could have an immediate impact.

The event will take place across the nation at noon in each time zone. Attendees will join hands for 15 minutes while standing along waterways. Details are online at Hands Across The Sand.

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