Offshore drilling threatens our coastal-dependent economy, our natural heritage and many of the most important values we enjoy every day in Sonoma County.

This Saturday, at Doran Beach in Bodega Bay, Californians will join hands with friends and neighbors to protect our coast from this dirty and dangerous practice during this year's "Hands Across the Sand" event.

As evidenced by the unusual number of dead dolphins washing up on Gulf beaches, last summer's BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster continues to affect the Gulf of Mexico and the wildlife and livelihoods it supports. Instead of taking steps to ensure that offshore drilling is made safer, the House has actually passed legislation that would imperil more of the country's fragile waters — including those off our own shores here in California.

A series of reckless drilling bills passed by the House would mandate the installation of drilling rigs only three miles off of Malibu, within Santa Monica Bay and along the Orange County beaches all the way to La Jolla — eventually including even Sonoma County — in its shortsighted offshore drilling plans.

The members of Congress spearheading these assaults on our coast know that drilling here will not, and cannot, actually lower the price of gas at the pump. For them, the issue of offshore drilling is used merely as a short-sighted political maneuver in the election cycle.

We Californians must protect the coast that is our inheritance and safeguard it for future generations. This means bringing together like-minded individuals and organizations with the conviction to organize a global movement to promote a clean energy future and end our dependence on fossil fuels.

Through these efforts we hope to convince our state legislators, governors, Congress and President Barack Obama and other world leaders to adopt policies encouraging the growth of clean and renewable energy sources in place of oil and coal.

This weekend, "Hands Across the Sand" will unite people of all walks of life, transcending political affiliations and even international borders. Last year's movement featured events not only in all 50 states but in 43 other countries around the world. This movement is not about politics but rather the protection of our coastal economies, oceans, marine wildlife and fisheries.

Expanded offshore drilling and its potential to cause devastating accidents threaten all of these things. Only by embracing high-tech energy efficiency and responsibly-sited clean energy can we truly move beyond the dangers of dirty fossil fuels and eliminate the risks they pose to our coastal environments.

I hope to see you on Doran Beach at 11 a.m. Saturday at the whale sculpture across from the Coast Guard Station. Please bring your family and friends to help us in our effort to keep California's coasts beautiful — and safe. To encourage carpooling, the normal daily $6 use fee for the park will be waived for our event for all vehicles with at least four occupants.

To learn more about our event, visit: www.surfrider.org/sonomacoast.

Richard Charter is senior policy adviser for marine programs at Defenders of Wildlife. He lives in Bodega Bay.