Elected leaders join hundreds of Floridians in giant ‘human sun’ to oppose offshore drilling and support clean energy

Media Contacts
Jennifer Rubiello

Treasure Island, FL –– Close to a dozen Pinellas County elected officials will join hundreds of Floridians, community leaders, and local environmental organizations to oppose offshore oil exploration and drilling, and call for a transition to 100% renewable energy at the 6th annual Hands Across the Sand event Saturday, May 21st. 

Since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, Pinellas County has hosted some of the largest gatherings for this global event to raise awareness about the dangers of dirty fossil fuels and offshore drilling, and the need to transition to clean energy sources. On the heels of the Louisiana coast Shell Oil spill, this year’s event also follows Congress’ recent consideration of a bill to lift the moratorium on offshore drilling from Florida’s Gulf coast.

“Drilling off Florida’s coast threatens the state’s multi-billion dollar, tourism-driven economy that’s dependent on clean beaches and pollution-free water,” said U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL). “That’s why I will continue to fight any attempt to lift the current moratorium on drilling in the Gulf and keep oil rigs off of Florida’s coasts.” 

Pinellas elected officials including Mayor Robert Minning of Treasure Island, Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch, State Representative Kathleen Peters, Mayor Julie Bujalski of Dunedin, Vice Mayor Thomas Barnhorn of Seminole, Commissioner Ward Friszolowski of St. Pete Beach, Commissioner Michael Smith of Largo, Commissioner Rea Sieber of Tarpon Springs, and Vivian Campbell of Lealman Special Fire Control District will join Sierra Club, Environment Florida, Suncoast Surfrider Foundation, Oceana, Chart 411, Once Upon An Ocean, Greenpeace, St Pete Sustainability Council and Florida Food & Water Watch to take a stand against offshore drilling and support of clean, renewable energy.

One of 18 in Florida and over 50 along the East Coast, Hands Across the Sand aims to increase awareness about the threat offshore drilling exploration, specifically the practice of seismic airgun blasting, an extremely loud and dangerous process used to search for oil and gas deposits deep below the ocean floor. While the Atlantic Ocean is currently safe from the threat of offshore drilling, due in large part to widespread coastal opposition, seismic airgun blasting is still being pursued in an area twice the size of California, stretching from Delaware to Florida. As of today, 112 municipalities have publicly opposed seismic airgun blasting and/or offshore drilling, citing concerns to marine life, coastal communities and local economies.

As cities across the county reaffirm commitments to transition to clean energy, the event features a new format this year, highlighting the need to transition away from dirty fossil fuels to clean, renewable sources. In front of the Bilmar Beach Resort, hundreds of Tampa Bay area residents will join hands in the shape of an original art logo designed by internationally renowned aerial artist John Quigley. With a helicopter overhead to capture the image, hundreds of people will pose with their bodies to create the image of a huge sun encircling “100%” to symbolize the move towards clean energy on the Suncoast. 

The sun image highlights the under-realized potential for solar energy in Florida while the 100% represents aspirations to reach 100% renewable energy generation. The Sierra Club Ready for 100% St Pete campaign aims to drive the City of St Pete to 100% renewable power by developing residential and commercial solar projects, establishing a clear renewable energy goal in the City’s Climate Action Plan, and educating the public on the benefits and potential of renewable energy in Florida.

“Our precious coasts and wildlife, and the communities that depend on them, must be protected from the kinds of environmental and economic tragedy the BP blowout brought to the Gulf of Mexico several years ago,” said Jennifer Rubiello, state director for Environment Florida. “That’s why we need to maintain the moratorium against offshore drilling in the Gulf and transition to 100 percent clean, renewable energy.”

Those interested in learning more about the event can visit handsacrossthesand.org