Letter: Everyday is Earth Day… and Ocean Day

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Hats off to Tom Osborne for writing, “For Many Lagunans Earth Day is Everyday,” last week. Here’s what Earth Day means to me:

Each time I see the ocean I think about the call I received in early August 1985. That was the day I learned I was picked to direct the No on Offshore Oil Drilling campaign created by a consortium of four beach cities, including Laguna Beach, and the Orange County Board of Supervisors.

My task was to make sure that when Interior Secretary Donald Hodel chaired a town hall meeting weeks later in Newport, he heard Orange County’s message loud and clear: It’s too risky to drill off the county coastline for numerous environmental and economic reasons. 

Our lineup of speakers included California Lt. Gov. Leo McCarthy and prominent local Republicans like Marian Bergeson of Newport Beach and Sup. Harriett Wieder of Huntington Beach. To dramatize her opposition, Wieder had a wheelbarrow packed with 14,000 of her constituents’ postcards unceremoniously dumped in front of the secretary. After that, 22 GOP mayors from throughout the county stepped up to the microphone and added their voices to the “No” campaign. Needless to say, I don’t think the meeting turned out the way Mr. Hodel thought it would.

I never got a chance to ask the secretary about the blowback he, and most people in the Reagan administration, failed to anticipate from Orange County local elected officials. All I know is thanks to Laguna’s Bob Gentry and several of his council colleagues in other nearby cities, their continued lobbying on Capitol Hill paid off. No president since Ronald Reagan has suggested drilling for oil off the county’s shoreline in the last 35 years.

Today, many environmentalists and political leaders are betting on reengineered cars, solar, wind and recycling as ways to protect the Earth for future generations. I don’t disagree; however, my focus continues to be on the health and welfare of the Pacific Ocean. Simply put, being part of a cause much larger than myself—one that turned thumbs down to offshore drilling—remains the single most important political campaign I ever will participate in, period. Full stop.

So thanks, Tom, for writing about Earth Day last week. My hope is my children and yours will say “No” to offshore oil drilling if the time ever comes.

Denny Freidenrich, Laguna Beach

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