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2 decades after landmark hearing, conservationists again marshal forces

  • More than 2,000 people packed an old hall and spilled into the street in the Mendocino County coastal town where Department of Interior officials heard a torrent of anti-oil sentiment on Feb. 3, 1988, dubbed Òthe day California said no.Ó (Mark Aronoff / The Press Democrat)

Busloads of environmental activists are expected to converge at a meeting Thursday in San Francisc reminiscent of a landmark offshore oil hearing two decades ago in Fort Bragg.

More than 2,000 people packed an old hall and spilled into the street in the Mendocino County coastal town where Department of Interior officials heard a torrent of anti-oil sentiment on Feb. 3, 1988, dubbed ?the day California said no.?

?Never, never,? the crowd shouted as state and local officials decried plans to open 1.1 million acres of the North Coast to oil and natural gas development.

On Thursday, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is once again inviting comment on a national plan for offshore energy plan development. It includes 1.9 million acres along the Mendocino and Humboldt county coast as a potential oil and natural gas field.

Salazar is expected to open the session, the last of four meetings he has held to assess public reaction to the energy plan.

Rachel Binah, a longtime Mendocino County anti-drilling activist, said she has been working to turn out a large crowd. ?We want to ensure the secretary realizes this is an issue of extreme importance to the coast,? said Binah, who was at the Fort Bragg hearing.

The late Lt. Gov. Leo McCarthy, who was a Democratic U.S. Senate candidate in 1988, led off the anti-oil tirade. Current Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, a potential gubernatorial candidate in 2010, is expected at Thursday?s meeting.

An appearance is mandatory for everyone else even thinking about the governor?s race, said David McCuan, a Sonoma State University political scientist.

Mike Chrisman, California?s secretary for natural resources, will present Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger?s case against oil rigs on the North Coast.

?We will be very strong on the issue,? said Sandy Cooney, a state Natural Resources Agency spokesman.


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