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Environment: Offshore drilling opponents join hands

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

Callie Rushton has been coming to the beach at North Litchfield most of her 22 years. She made it to the beach Saturday in time to join hands with 18 other visitors and residents for Hands Across the Sand, organized to show continuing opposition to now-stalled plans to drill for oil and gas off the Atlantic Coast. The federal government is still reviewing permits to allow seismic testing that will determine the extent of oil and gas deposits.

“I didn’t know there were proposals to drill off South Carolina,” Rushton said. But it’s an issue that concerns the Washington, D.C., resident who earned a degree in environmental policy from Vanderbilt University.

That was the point of the event, first held six years ago following the BP Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Gatherings at Garden City, North Litchfield and Pawleys Island were organized by Stop Offshore Drilling in the Atlantic (SODA). They joined hands at noon, paused for photos and went back to enjoying an afternoon of blue skies. There were 36 participants at Garden City and 28 at Pawleys Island.

“We were very pleased with the turnout,” said Peg Howell, a SODA founder. They are now collecting postcards opposing seismic testing to send to the White House. “People were able to get their heads around drilling, but seismic testing is another leap,” she said.

Ed Yaw, a SODA member, volunteered to organize the event in North Litchfield, where he lives. He was a little nervous about drawing a crowd, as was Jim Watkins, who organized the gathering on the south end of Pawleys Island. Oceana, an international conservation group, provided T-shirts for SODA members to hand out to recruits.

Not everyone was impressed. One man waved off Yaw’s invitation to join. “Most people were happy to join,” said Nancy Bracken, another SODA member from North Litchfield. And like Rushton, they took the time to fill out a postcard before they left.

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