Editorial: We must fight any plan to drill off the Jersey Shore

June 11, 2017

Drilling for oil and natural gas off the coast of New Jersey is a bad idea that never goes away.

Former President Barack Obama was for it — before, at the very end of his term, he signed an executive order reinstating a moratorium on offshore drilling from Massachusetts to Virginia. Earlier this year, President Donald Trump issued an executive order of his own to reopen the possibility of drilling off the East Coast. And then, last week, the Trump administration announced plans to issue five permits for offshore seismic testing from the Delaware-New Jersey border to Florida. The tests, which involve loud blasts that critics say harm whales and other sea creatures, are a first step to oil exploration.

(The National Marine Fisheries Service is seeking public comment on the proposal until July 7.)

And that’s only the recent history of this perennial issue. Back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, oil companies actually drilled exploratory wells off Atlantic City. They didn’t find significant enough deposits to continue the effort.

But here we are again.

New Jersey’s two U.S. senators and House members from coastal districts are opposing the latest push for offshore drilling, just as they have done every time this issue has bubbled to the surface, no matter their party. And the argument — a good one — against offshore drilling is always the same: Why endanger the state’s $44 billion-a-year tourism industry and the 500,000 jobs it supports? Half of that revenue is generated from counties along the coast. Offshore drilling could also threaten the state’s $7.9 billion-a-year fishing industry and the 50,000 jobs it creates.

The fear, of course, is that a spill off the state’s coast could blacken New Jersey beaches with oil. Furthermore, oil spills from drilling off states to the north and south of New Jersey could also end up drifting onto the state’s beaches.

Massive oil spills can cause catastrophic damage. The Gulf of Mexico still has not recovered, and may never recover, from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill. Once pictures of oil-coated wildlife fade from the news, the spills are largely forgotten by the general public — but not in the region where the spills occur, where the damage is lasting.

Granted, with the current glut of oil and natural gas on the market and oil selling for less than $50 a barrel, there will likely be no immediate rush by oil companies to drill off the East Coast. But this issue never goes away, and it’s important to oppose it every time offshore drilling resurfaces. Besides, take a look around New Jersey. No one can say our state has not already endured more than its share of the petro-chemical industry’s ugliness. We’ve already done our part.


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