State Administration Voices Opposition to Offshore Drilling in Atlantic

Aug 23, 2017

New Jersey is taking a stand against the federal government’s plan to allow offshore drilling in the Atlantic Ocean. In an Aug. 16 letter to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin, on behalf of Gov. Chris Christie, expresses strong opposition to the development of a new 2019-2024 National Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program.

The letter comes in response to the bureau’s July 3 Federal Register notice soliciting information and comments on the project.

As Martin writes to Kelly Hammerle, national program manager for BOEM, “The State of New Jersey strongly opposes any waters off our coastline being considered for inclusion in this leasing program. New Jersey has consistently and steadfastly opposed any industrialization of our coast, including the exploration and development of offshore oil and natural gas resources, nor into any portion of the Atlantic Ocean that could negatively impact New Jersey’s precious natural resources or vibrant coastal communities.

“These waters are home to plant, fish, mammal and avian species, including federally listed endangered species. The risk of adverse impacts to our marine waters and the species that depend on them is unacceptable.”

Martin also mentions, in addition to the ocean’s environmental and cultural importance, that the waters have significant economic value to the state. In 2016, the letter points out, New Jersey’s tourism industry generated more $44 billion, directly supported more than 321,000 jobs and indirectly supported more than 517,000 jobs. Meanwhile, the revenue generated by tourism produced $4.9 billion in state and local taxes and $5.6 billion in federal taxes.

“New Jersey’s recreational and commercial fishing industries are also critical to our economic health,” Martin explains. “In 2015, New Jersey’s seafood industry supported more than 31,000 jobs, and the state is home to one of the largest saltwater recreational fishing industries in the nation, and some of the most important commercial fishing ports on the Atlantic coast.”

The N.J.-based nonprofit Clean Ocean Action applauded the Christie administration for its “leadership and steadfast opposition to offshore drilling anywhere in the Atlantic where it could harm the Jersey Shore,” said Cindy Zipf, COA executive director.

As COA noted, the last five-year plan was completed in January 2017, and was to be in effect from 2017 to 2022. The new, overlapping plan – which includes the entire Atlantic Ocean from Maine to Florida – “is an effort to expand drilling in areas that were rejected by the Obama Administration due to public opposition as well as economic or environmental concerns.”

The Federal Register comment period ended on Aug. 17.  —J.K.-H.

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