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CENTER for BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY Because life is good

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A firsthand report on the 2009 San Francisco rally and offshore drilling hearing with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar

By Francisca Santana

On April 16 in San Francisco, hundreds of people came out to demand that Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, in town for public hearings on offshore oil and gas drilling, revoke the damaging Bush regulations gutting the Endangered Species Act and jettison further offshore fossil fuel development in favor of a clean energy future.

The secretary and his fellow Interior Department representatives were greeted in the morning by a crowd of polar bears lining the sidewalk of the Mission Bay Conference Center, with signs and chants in favor of restoring the Endangered Species Act and protecting polar bears and their habitat.

The hearing was attended by Senator Barbara Boxer, Lt. Governor John Garamendi, Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey, and several other members of Congress. Each of them spoke out against opening California’s coastline to oil and gas leasing, stressing the need to weigh immediate risks with the future benefits, and encourage the development of renewable energy sources, such as wind, solar, and wave. Highlights included Congresswoman Woolsey calling on Secretary Salazar to revoke the Bush Endangered Species Act regulations and Center Staff Attorney Lisa Belenky delivering more than 52,000 petition signatures from our members and supporters seeking revocation of the Bush rules.

Since March 11, Secretary Salazar has been sitting on his ability to revoke Bush administration regulations that eliminate scientific consultation and essential protections for the polar bear and other species under the Endangered Species Act. Congress has granted him special authority to revoke the Bush regulations with no more than the stroke of a pen, but this opportunity expires on May 9. The Center has been campaigning around the clock to convince Salazar to revoke regulations and undo one of the worst environmental attacks of the Bush administration.

The Center was joined by many other environmental groups at the hearing, including the Surfrider Foundation, San Francisco Baykeeper, and Pacific Environment. Dressed as polar bears, sea turtles, jellyfish, and other marine species, environmentalists spoke out at a rally held during the lunch hour of the hearing. Secretary Salazar was invited to attend and speak, but he declined. The rally emphasized the diversity of groups, yet it also highlighted the basic unifying message: Californians, environmentalists, and citizens from across the country are opposed to further fossil fuel exploration, and they support protections for the polar bear and other endangered species.

More photos from the rally.