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Ocean Hero Finalists: Maria D’Orsogna

maria d'orsogna

This is the fifth in a series of posts about this year’s Ocean Hero finalists.

Maria D’Orsogna is a physics and math professor in California, but in her spare time, she has been fighting offshore drilling in Italy, where she spent 10 years of her childhood. She has even earned the nickname “Erin Brockovich of Abruzzo” for her efforts to rally the public and officials to end drilling in the region.

Abruzzo, which may be familiar to you from Montepulciano d’Abruzzo wine (a bottle of which I have sitting at home), is a primarily agricultural region east of Rome. The Adriatic Sea is nearby, along with a marine reserve (Torre del Cerrano), a Coastal National Park (Parco Nazionale della Costa Teatina) and several regional reserves, such as Punta Aderci, where dolphins are often spotted.

Maria’s activism started in 2007, when she discovered that the oil company ENI planned to drill in the coastal town of Ortona, Abruzzo. The company would uproot century-old wineries to build a refinery and a 7km pipeline to the sea.

Maria reports that there was very little information about the industry’s drilling plans, nor analysis on what it could mean for the region’s agriculture or fishing industries. At the time, Italy had no laws regulating offshore drilling.

While fighting the onshore refinery, which was ultimately defeated, Maria said via e-mail, “the attack on the sea began. I had to get involved.”


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Marking the Oil Spill Anniversary In Washington DC

Oceana was joined by longtime supporters Kate Walsh ("Private Practice" and "Grey's Anatomy") and Aaron Peirsol (gold medal-winning swimmer) in Washington, D.C. today to remember the one-year anniversary of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. We were also joined by Patty Whitney, a Louisiana resident-turned-activist whose home was affected by last year's disaster.

Along with campaign director Jackie Savitz, and a slew of energetic volunteers, the group served to remind us that offshore drilling is never safe - and that an oil spill could happen anywhere. Check out this slideshow of images from today's event.

 


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Video: Lewis Pugh on Hydrofracking

Lewis Pugh is a British environmentalist, maritime lawyer and Oceana ally. He was the first person to complete a long distance swim in every ocean, and is probably best known for two impressive feats: his 2007 swim across the North Pole to highlight the melting of Arctic sea ice, and a swim across a glacial lake in the Himalayas 2010 to draw attention to the region’s melting glaciers.

Last week Pugh spoke in Cape Town, South Africa against Shell’s proposed fracking in the country. Fracking, short for hydraulic fracturing, is a method of extracting natural gas by pumping chemicals, sand, and water underground to break apart rock and release gas. (For more on the controversial practice of hydrofracking see Grist and the New York Times.)

While Oceana doesn’t have a campaign directly dealing with the practice of hydrofracking, we are certainly aligned with Pugh on his bottom line: it’s time to transition away from fossil fuels and toward clean energy. Here’s a clip of Pugh’s powerful speech:

 

Here in the U.S., we need your help to stop dirty energy, too. Please speak up by March 30 (tomorrow!) to prevent new offshore drilling for the next five years.


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Expedition Wildlife Spotting, Part 2

On my second attempt to spot whale sharks yesterday, I flew with the effervescent Bonny Schumaker, whose organization On Wings of Care helps protect wildlife and their habitats by helping with search, rescue, rehabilitation and scientific research. Samantha Whitcraft of the non-profit Oceanic Defense also joined us for the flight. We took off from New Orleans and flew about 50 miles south over the Gulf.

Bonny and her 4-seater plane, whom she lovingly refers to as “Bessie,” have years of experience spotting wildlife.  Unfortunately, despite Bonny and Bessie’s best efforts, the conditions yesterday were simply not ideal for finding marine life. Choppy waters and white caps made it a challenge to see much of anything besides oil rigs, oil boom and barrier islands:



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4 Key Reasons to Oppose Offshore Drilling

This week, Oceana's corporate partner Nautica invited us to Key West Race Week to spread the word and gather support for our opposition to Congressional efforts to open up Florida’s coasts to offshore drilling.

In the American Clean Energy Leadership Act of 2009, there’s a proposal that would open up currently protected areas in the eastern Gulf of Mexico to oil and gas drilling.

Why is this proposal such a big deal? I’ll give you a few reasons…

1. Currents: the Florida and Loop currents in the Gulf spread vital nutrients to marine life off Florida’s west coast, so if the currents are exposed to oil, it could expose Florida’s beaches and marine habitats to oil contamination.

2. Habitats: Florida’s mangroves and corals provide habitat for over 40 bird species, over 500 fish species, sea turtles, dolphins, manatees, sharks and commercially-important shellfish like spiny lobsters, oysters, clams and shrimp. These habitats are particularly vulnerable to oil.


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