“The U.S. Department of the Interior protects America’s natural resources and heritage, honors our cultures and tribal communities, and supplies the energy to power our future.”
That’s how the DOI describes itself. But I’ve got a better description: energy pimps. At least for its Mineral Management Service. After all, how else can you describe an organization who actively aims to exploit a fresh piece of coastal ass even as it’s wore-out beat up Louisiana hooker is bleeding to the tune of 200,000 gallons of oil per day. And when I say exploit. I mean exploit.
I just got back from the MMS meeting in Norfolk over seismic testing. The first round of battles that’ll go down before they get to drilling. Call it the foreplay before getting down to the real rude and crude business.
I heard the Governor of Virginia’s spokesperson open the hearing by calling the Gulf disaster a “setback.” I also heard an oil lobbyist shamelessly urge the MMS to push into the North Atlantic, even as they’re dealing with a spill large than Rhode Island. But the most salacious “hey baby” sales pitch of all came from the MMS smooth talkers themselves.
Not only did they downplay the damage to marine mammals that seismic guns cause and it’s effects on commercial fishing, they actually implied that finding oil and gas was only one small reason for exploring. A minor concern. A side note. Number 3 on a list of more noble motivators like understanding which bathymetry worked for windfarms or finding suitable sand for beach nourishment in case a hurricane rips our coast apart.
And as I watched them grease the room with a mix of false promises and fear, it came to me. They’re not just the pimps, they’re the hos. And the johns. Playing whatever role the energy lobbies and companies want – so long as they get paid. The only difference is, when the transaction’s made and the money changes hands, they strut away in their fine fancy suits – while we coastal residents get royally fucked.
Yeah, we know, websites live for this day to make up BS stories. The difference? This one could come true — at least, partially — as the National Park Service is in the final stages of determining how to handle ORV and Pedestrian Access along Cape Hatteras National Seashore. What they decide could close miles of some of the East Coast’ best sandbars during the most active times of year. And you only have until May 11 to make yourself heard by public comment.
On one side, you’ve got Audubon, Defenders of Wildlife and others looking to restrict the maximum number of miles to both beach driving and people. On the other, you’ve got fishermen, local business owners and a whole lot of angry locals screaming “all access, all the time.” The final decision will likely like somewhere in between. In fact, the NPS preferred recommendation -- Alternative F (sounds like a bad 80s techno band) -- mixes new parking zones with seasonal closures around several miles of ‘secret” sandbars, plus no night driving for most of the year.
Granted, we’re no experts, but of them all Alternative C seems to preserve the most possible access to the best surfing areas for the most time, while keeping some common sense ideas in place. (On an island filled with drive-thru beer stores, maybe requiring ORV permits will keep a few drunken yahoos from burying their Escalade in a turtle nest.)
The point is: if you care, check out the document and take the time to voice your opinion. Be sure to speak up for surf access specifically. You can also list your preferred alternatives in order.
Also, since there’s been no real scientific study connecting ORVs with bird mortality — except the federal vehicle that ran over a nest a few years back — and 88% of deaths is attributed to weather and predators, demand the NPS keep studying how these closures are affecting species survival in hopes of looser, more reliable restrictions in the future. And if you live in one of the following areas – or just have the free time to drive -- attend one of the five hearings below.
Whatever you do, speak out. Now. To do anything else would be foolish.
PUBLIC HEARING SCHEDULE:
Ocracoke, NC – Monday, April 26, 2010, 9:00 am to 11:00 am Ocracoke School, 1 Schoolhouse Road, Ocracoke, NC 27960 (Doors open at 8:30 am for sign-in, the meeting will begin at 9:00 am)
Buxton, NC – Monday, April 26, 2010, 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm Cape Hatteras Secondary School, 48576 Hwy. 12, Buxton, NC 27920 (Doors open at 4:30 pm for sign-in, the meeting will begin at 5:00 pm)
Kill Devil Hills, NC – Tuesday, April 27, 2010, 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm Wright Brothers National Memorial First Flight Centennial Pavilion, 1000 Croatan Hwy., M.P. 7 ½, Kill Devil Hills, NC 27948 (Doors open at 5:30 pm for sign-in, the meeting will begin at 6:00 pm)
Raleigh, NC – Wednesday, April 28, 2010, 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm McKimmon Conference & Training Center (NC State University Campus), 1101 Gorman Street, Raleigh, NC 27695 (Doors open at 5:30 pm for sign-in, the meeting will begin at 6:00 pm)
Hampton, VA – Thursday, April 29, 2010, 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm Holiday Inn & Conference Center, 1815 West Mercury Boulevard, Hampton, VA 23666 (Doors open at 5:30 pm for sign-in, the meeting will begin at 6:00 pm)
Coalition for Beach Access is holding work shops on making informed public comments at the following Outer Banks workshops: Tue., April 13, 6:30pm – BUXTON, Cape Hatteras Secondary School Wed., April 14, 7:00pm – OCRACOKE, Community Building Thur., April 15, 6:30pm – KILL DEVIL HILLS, First Flight High School