February 26, 2018

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Anti Off Shore Drilling Rally

The Cape May County Chamber of Commerce held a press conference at the Music Pier on the Ocean City Boardwalk, Monday Feb. 26, 2018, in opposition to proposed off-shore oil drilling off the New Jersey coast as well as other Atlantic seaboard states. U.S. Congressman Frank LoBiondo R-2 NJ, along with New Jersey State, county and local officials, attended the events to show their support in opposing off-shore drilling in the Atlantic Ocean. (Press of Atlantic City)

February 26, 2018

Offshore drilling in N.J. is ‘not worth the risk,’ Democrats, Republicans say

By Chris Franklin

With the Atlantic Ocean serving as a backdrop, a mixture of Atlantic and Cape May county officials gathered on the boardwalk in Ocean City to oppose a proposal that would allow oil and gas drilling off the coast of New Jersey.

Their combined voices, along with the feedback from the public which must be submitted to the federal government next week, is what U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo is hoping will draw attention to their position against putting New Jersey’s tourism and environment at risk.

The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has a proposed lease agreement for up to 26 planning areas for the drilling of oil and gas along the United States shores. According to the proposed plan, areas off the New Jersey coast, which resides in the proposal’s North Atlantic Zone, would be auctioned off in 2021 and 2023 to companies wishing to set up and drill off those areas. New Jersey is hoping to receive a waiver from drilling just as Florida, citing that the tourism industry is as vital to the state as its southern counterpart.

The proposal has been met with resistance by government officials, businesses and environmental groups in an area that relies heavily on tourism.

“I think it is critically important to be able to show strong, complete bi-partisan support in opposition to the proposal and a cross section of chambers of commerce, environmental organizations and fishing organizations which will make our point that it just doesn’t make sense to gamble with this off the Jersey coast,” said LoBiondo.

“Oil and gas exploration in the Mid-Atlantic region puts at risk some of the nation’s most sensitive coastal and marine resources,” LoBiondo wrote in an official statement. “The State of New Jersey and the waters off its shores are home to more than 300 species of fish, 350 different species of birds, 5 species of sea turtles and over 20 different species of whales and dolphins. If this current plan moves forward, it could cause significant harm to this valuable ecosystem.”

Two candidates vying for the LoBiondo’s seat in the upcoming mid-term elections, Democratic candidate State Senator Jeff Van Drew and Republican candidate Robert Turkavage were also present and both liked the display of bipartisanship displayed at the event.

“This is about everyone coming together to do what is best for our people in our region and I hope we see more of that in our future in a variety of stuff,” Van Drew said.

“Whether you are a Democrat or a Republican, it is important to realize that intended offshore drilling is completely unacceptable here in South Jersey where we depend so much on the commercial fishing industry and tourism for jobs,” Turkavage added.

Assemblyman Bob Andrzejczak, D-1, also liked seeing elected officials from both sides of the aisle and come together in agreement that he says is “terrible for the state of New Jersey.”

“With offshore drilling, it’s not a matter of if something will happen but when something happens,” Andrzejczak said. “It’s not really worth the risk of when it will happen. It took us years to recover (from) Hurricane Sandy and now you are talking about doing something that is completely preventable to begin with is offshore drilling. It’s simple. Just don’t do it.”

On Jan. 23, Cape May County Freeholders unanimously passed a resolution opposing any type of offshore oil and gas activity. In federal testimony, Cape May County Freeholder Director Gerald ‘Jerry’ Thornton used the Deepwater Horizon rig accident as an example of why drilling should not be allowed. In 2010, an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico operated by British Petroleum (BP) exploded and killed 11 workers. The ensuing spill affected wildlife and tourism in the area. Thornton does not want to see a similar disaster happen to Cape May County.

“I have really fought against offshore drilling because of the impact it will have on the county of Cape May and the potential threat it has,” Thornton said Monday. “The one thing people do not realize is the onshore problems that they eventually will have to create because they will have to pump the oil onshore someplace.”

He added that “hundreds of millions of dollars” have been spent to “make sure we have pristine ocean water here in Cape May County with our municipal utilities authority. Now all of a sudden after spending that money and spending millions of dollars a year, we are going to have them pumping oil off shore? Not likely.”

Residents have the opportunity to comment in favor or against the proposed offshore drilling proposal. All comments must be submitted to the federal administration by Mar. 9.


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