SAVE OUR SHORES CAMPAIGN LAUNCHED TO PROTECT FLORIDA COAST FROM DRILLING-Andrew Stelzer

05/23/06

Although the house rejected an effort to open up all of the country’s coastlines to oil and gas exploration last week, by all accounts the fight to protect Florida’s coasts is far from over. An increasing number of long time opponents of drilling have called for compromise, or voted to allow it, and rising gas prices have led to calls for exploration on the editorial pages of newspapers across the country. In anticipation of a continuing struggle against what they say is a environmental and economic disaster in the making, the Florida public interest research group has launched the ‘save our shores’ campaign, and made it the most important priority for the summer. WMNFs Andrew Stelzer reports. ---------p>

OCEAN SOUNDSp>

Its high noon on an overcast day on Clearwater beach, several dozen people lay on towels, sit in chairs, and swim in the water. After 7 years renting out umbrellas, Mike is in his second year as a life guard—he says drilling for oil or natural gas off the gulf coast would be devastating.p>

ACT “I love the beach, and seeing those rigs out there, if they’re gonna set up rigs takes away the natural beauty I don’t want to see it…�p>

Mike is far from alone among the people enjoying the beach. ACTSp>

But the people who enjoy the beach every day are in the minority in Florida, and certainly across the country, where only 23 states touch a body of salt water. Recent effort to open up the gulf of Mexico, as well as other coastal areas, to oil and gas exploration have been led by members of congress from landlocked districts. But they’ve also included some of Florida’s own.p>

ACT-Schumart “Several members of Florida delegation supported a bill..so did Pombo..�p>

Lauren Schumart is the Tampa research office of the Florida Public Interest Research Group, abbreviated PIRG.p>

ACT-Schumart “In the 25 year battle Florida delegation has stood strong..that’s why this summer, we are gonna ask legislators to stand firm..�p>

PIRG is launching a statewide grassroots campaign to generate even more public support for moratorium on exploring for, or drilling for oil or natural gas off Florida’s coast. They've been hiring activists for a summer long campaign, who will be going door to door, with the goal of having 35,000 conversations across the state about preserving the coast. Some of the new employees have been working on the issue since last fall, while others signed up to campaign for the summer long campaign earlier this week.p>

ACT John Nolgren “We do get paid, its not much, we all work our here because we are passionate for the cause, that's why we want to spread the word..’ p>

ACT “If we had oil, tourism, we saw what happened after 9-11 and hurricanes..� p>

ACT “We chose as a state to have tourism..� p>

ACT “The prices of oil are skyrocketing and I understand, but there are other options..�p>

Mark Kustelski is the citizen outreach director of Florida PIRGs Tampa officep>

ACT- “Were looking to get as many people involved as possible..as many people as get out the more effective well be..�p>

Kustelski says that PRIG hopes to have between 30- and 50 people going door to door in the Tampa area this summer, and over 100 people throughout Florida. Thousands of PIRGs people, like Caroline Thompson, will be working across the country to save Florida’s coastline, in a campaign similar to nationwide efforts to protect the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge.p>

ACT-Caroline Thompson “I moved from California a few months ago, and I fell in love with the beaches..it will hurt our economy..p>

PIRG is calling on members of congress to vote for higher fuel efficiency for cars later this week, and they intend to get legislators to sign a ‘save our shores’ pledge as one of the goals of the grassroots door-knocking campaign. p>

ACT “Way to go, great press conference, I got my start, I canvassed on drilling in 1989, building grassroots support at the door, they are complacent, but the battle is even tougher now…keep it up..� p>

Darden Rice, a long time Tampa bay area environmental organizer and representative of the Sierra Club showed up to give a pep talk to the new PIRG campaigners.p>

RICE ACT CONTp>

Rise said that the Sierra clubs biggest national goal is to protect the outer continental shelf, and her experience says that talking to people 1 on 1 is the best way to go about it.p>

ACT-Rice “Campaign…and our leaders know there is a difference, they know its someone who has time..that translates into votes..think of it this way, 2 things—money and votes, well never have money like Exxon, but we will have votes..its how we win..�p>

For more information about the save our shores campaign, log onto www.floridapirg.org

For WMNF news, I’m Andrew Stelzer

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