Dressed as sea turtles, jellyfish and other marine life, environmentalists were among dozens of people to pack a public hearing Thursday to press Interior Secretary Ken Salazar not to open new areas of the West Coast to oil drilling.

The public forum, the last of four such meetings around the country with Salazar, also drew state and federal lawmakers concerned about the effects any expansion of offshore drilling could have on the region’s economy and natural beauty.

Sen. Barbara Boxer drew cheers from the crowd as she emphatically told Salazar that California opposes such action.

“Our state is saying clearly to you today, no,” she declared at the opening of the hearing at the UC San Francisco Mission Bay campus.

Read more at San Francisco Chronicle: White House pressed to stop offshore drilling

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Reuters: Californians say “baby, baby, no more drilling”

AlterNet: The Consequences of ‘Drill, Baby Drill’: More Than 90 Oil Spills a Day in the U.S.

Santa Rosa Press Democrat: Anti-oil drilling forces view Interior Secretary as ally

(Click here from from great Press Democrat photos)

San Jose Mercury News: As We See It: Don’t drill off the coast

The idea of drilling for oil off our coast has been fought by local environmentalists for decades — for good reason.

A catastrophic oil spill would cause untold damage to our pristine shoreline and irrevocably harm ocean life.

Fortunately, in 1992, President George H.W. Bush signed into law a moratorium on offshore drilling and set the largest boundaries for the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, which permanently protected a quarter of California’s coast.

Now local groups involved in ocean protection are organizing to ensure protections stay in place. The ban on offshore drilling expired under the last Bush administration, which also proposed to allow drilling in formerly off-limits areas, including the California coast.

While that proposal would not allow drilling in the sanctuary, a spill outside the boundaries could still foul waters and shorelines and kill sea life.

U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has convened a public hearing starting at 8 a.m. today in San Francisco to discuss the government’s five-year plan for oil development.

The California coastal part of the plan should be simple: Don’t drill.

Los Angeles Times: Californians voice concerns to Obama administration over offshore drilling

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CNN Anderson Cooper’s Blog

KGO San Francisco local ABC

Outside the hearing, offshore drilling opponents held a rally dressed in costumes and listened to speakers representing environmental organizations. Inside, the hearing was dominated by elected officials — most of them from California — and all of them expressed the same point of view.

“Some other states may feel differently. Our state clearly is saying to you today ‘no,'” said Democratic Senator Boxer of California.

KRON-TV, Channel 4, San Francisco, April 16

White House pressed to stop offshore drilling

SAN FRANCISCO – Environmentalists and California lawmakers are urging Interior Secretary Ken Salazar not to open new areas of the West Coast to oil drilling.

Protesters came out to today’s public hearing in San Francisco dressed as sea turtles, jellyfish and other marine life.

Senator Barbara Boxer drew cheers from the crowd as she emphatically told Salazar that California opposes offshore drilling. The Democratic senator says the California coastline is a huge economic asset to the state “just as it is.”