Drilling foes join hands
TAMPA - Last year's BP oil disaster has faded from the headlines, but that doesn't mean Nina Perino is ready to forgive and forget. "It's going to be years down the road for those animals to recover," said Perino, who lives in Palm Harbor, as she anchored one end of a human chain on the Tampa Bay beach just west of the Gandy Bridge. About two dozen people from Hillsborough and Pinellas counties joined Perino on the beach at noon, part of an international "Hands Across the Sand" protest of offshore oil drilling. More than 200 people, including former Gov. Charlie Crist, held a similar protest on St. Pete Beach. In all, protestors joined hands at seven Pinellas County locations. "Hands Across the Sand" began last summer in response to the Deepwater Horizon oil well explosion that pumped millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The oil fouled wetlands in Louisiana and beaches in Alabama. It also washed ashore on a few Panhandle beaches — a small part of Florida's coastline, but enough to create a statewide economic mess.The protest happened one day after state Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Melbourne, announced his support for a state energy policy focused on renewable energy, nuclear power and drilling of Florida's coast for oil and gas. Republican state Rep. Jim Frishe of St. Petersburg told the St. Pete Beach protestors that policy will find limited support among Pinellas legislators. "Nobody in this delegation in Pinellas County supports drilling in Florida waters at any time," Frishe said. Hands Across the Sand organizers in Florida are collecting signatures in an effort to get a statewide referendum on the November 2012 ballot. The measure, if it makes the ballot and is approved by voters, would ban near-shore oil drilling off the Florida coastline. As she watched dolphins swim in Tampa Bay, Perino noted last summer's massive oil spill echoed an even larger one in Mexican waters in the 1970s. Perino criticized oil producers as having learned little between the two disasters. "All they learned was how to drill deeper," she said.
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