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June 9, 2010

 

Vigil marks 50th day in ongoing Gulf oil spill

Gathering in front of Cortland Post Office raises awareness about dangers of offshore drilling

ProtestJoe McIntyre/staff photographer
With supporters Raylynn Jones, left, and Roberta Merrill, right, Ruth Grunberg, center, displays a sign protesting offshore oil drilling to passers-by Tuesday on Main Streen in Cortland.

By JAMAR THRASHER
Staff Reporter

Local activist Ruth Grunberg tried Tuesday to call attention to the oil spill crisis in the Gulf of Mexico, staging a vigil commemorating 50 days since the spill began.
The vigil, attended by 10 people, took place at 6 p.m. in front of the Cortland Post Office.
It was part of a concerted nationwide effort championed by MoveOn.org, a liberal political action committee, to remember the lives lost in the accident and to protest offshore drilling.
The oil spill, which happened on April 20, was caused by an explosion on a BP-leased oil rig and resulted in the biggest offshore oil spill in American history, as oil continues to flow into the Gulf, devastating the local economy and the ecosystem.
Grunberg attributed the low turnout at Tuesday’s vigil to last-minute planning.
However, she said it was necessary people in Cortland know about the effects of oil drilling.
“I wanted people to think about the impact,” said Grunberg, who handed out literature on the effects of the oil spill to people at vigil.
Grunberg also used Tuesday’s event to raise awareness on natural gas drilling, an issue that could become significant to Cortland County after the state completes regulations on the controversial hydraulic fracturing, or hydrofracking, method of removing deep gas deposits in the region.
For over a year, gas drilling and its effect on the state have been debated in the county.
Supporters of gas drilling have formed coalitions to help landowners receive more money from gas leases and have stated gas drilling will create jobs; opponents have opposed hydrofracking, citing potential environmental and safety risks.
There is a moratorium on hydrofracking while the state completes regulations.
Gas drilling is not the only issue plaguing the area, there are much smaller tasks that need to be tackled, participants in Tuesday’s vigil said.
“The pollution has got to stop,” said Linda Ferguson, a Democratic 7th Ward Alderman.
Ferguson said there are initiatives in place by the city to keep the city clean when the Jets start training camp in August, but residents can do their part by not polluting.
Roberta Merrill traveled from Ithaca to attend the vigil. Merrill, who is deaf, penned her reaction in a notepad.
“It (drilling) hurts the wildlife,” wrote Merrill.
Grunberg said the oil spill should open state officials’ eyes to the disasters that can result from any type of drilling.
“Consequences of ignoring safety for the environment are long-term and hard to reverse,” Grunberg said, citing the spill’s impact on the ecosystem, tourism and seafood industry in the Gulf of Mexico.

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