In Wake of Shell's Gulf Oil Spill, Protesters Demand a Ban on Offshore Drilling

Gulf Coast environmental justice advocates Yudith Azareth Nieto and Hilton Kelly lead a march in Washington DC against offshore oil drilling on May 15. About 1,300 people attended the protest, which was part of a global week of action against fossil fuel extraction. (Sabelo Narasimhan)Gulf Coast environmental justice advocates Yudith Azareth Nieto and Hilton Kelly lead a march in Washington, DC, against offshore oil drilling on May 15, 2016. About 1,300 people attended the protest, which was part of a global week of action against fossil fuel extraction. (Photo: Sabelo Narasimhan)

As Shell Oil and the US Coast Guard continued to clean up a large oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday, about 1,300 protesters from across North America marched in Washington, DC, to protest the Obama administration’s offshore drilling plan.

Lindsay Meiman, an organizer with the climate justice group 350.org, said the spill “reinvigorated the sense of urgency to ban offshore drilling” already felt by the frontline communities in the Gulf and Arctic regions that sent activists to lead the protest.

“I think it just proves time and time again that there is no such thing as safe fossil fuel extraction and safe offshore drilling,” Meiman told Truthout.

“It pales in comparison to the BP disaster, but it still is pretty gnarly looking; I wouldn’t call it a small spill at all.”

First spotted on Thursday evening, the 88,000-gallon spill reportedly caused a long oil sheen over 26 square miles of the Gulf’s surface, about 90 miles off the coast of Louisiana, after an undersea pipeline connecting a well to a drilling platform released oil into the water.

Jonathan Henderson, who has monitored oil spills in the Gulf since the massive BP spill in 2010 and founded the watchdog photography organization Vanishing Earth, flew over the spill in a small aircraft on Saturday and shared his observations with Truthout.

“It pales in comparison to the BP disaster, but it still is pretty gnarly looking; I wouldn’t call it a small spill at all,” Henderson said. “[I saw a] rainbow sheen, deep bruising on the surface of the Gulf. It looks like the Gulf got punched in the face, you know?”

Boats skim oil and water off the surface of the Gulf of Mexico on May 14. A undersea oil pipeline connecting to a well to an offshore platform operated by Shell Oil discharged 88,000 gallons of oil into the Gulf last week.Boats skim oil and water off the surface of the Gulf of Mexico on May 14, 2016. An undersea oil pipeline…

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