Guest Column: The state of New Jersey isn’t waiting for the feds

Guest Column: The state of New Jersey isn’t waiting for the feds

South Strand News
April 27, 2018

By Frank Knapp Jr.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is expected to issue a draft plan by the end of this year or early 2019 that might include drilling for oil and gas in the Atlantic Ocean.

New Jersey, like almost every other East Coast state, opposes offshore exploration and drilling for oil in the Atlantic. But New Jersey is the first state to pass legislation to block any construction of infrastructure—pipe lines, docks, etc.—that would be needed to bring oil to shore for processing or further transporting.

On Earth Day, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed the Shore Tourism and Ocean Protection (STOP) from Offshore Oil and Gas Act that was originally filed in June of 2017. A number of the legislative sponsors were from Cape May, New Jersey, which reflects the hard work on this issue by Vicki Clark, CEO of the Cape May County Chamber and chair of the Business Alliance for Protecting the Atlantic Coast (which I recently stepped down as president and CEO).

Coincidentally, in May of 2017, South Carolina Representative Leon Stavrinakis and 13 other members of the state legislature (Representatives Cogswell, Sottile, W. Newton, J.E. Smith, Gilliard, Mack, Bernstein, Brown, Herbkersman) introduced a bi-partisan bill that was remarkably similar to the New Jersey bill.

South Carolina:

“Notwithstanding another provision of law, the State of South Carolina, a state agency, or a political subdivision of this State may not approve a plan or permit application to construct or otherwise use infrastructure used to facilitate the transportation of offshore oil into the land and waters of this State. This infrastructure includes, but is not limited to, a facility designed to store oil and a pipeline but does not include new roads.”

New Jersey:

“Notwithstanding the provisions of any other law, rule, or regulation to the contrary, offshore drilling for oil or natural gas shall be prohibited in State waters. The Department of Environmental Protection shall not issue any permit or other approval pursuant to the “Coastal Area Facility Review Act,” P.L.1973, c.185 (C.13:19-1 et seq.), R.S.12:5-3, the federal “Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972,” 16 U.S.C. s.1451 et seq., or any other State or federal law, rule, or regulation, for the development of any facility, or related infrastructure, associated with offshore drilling for oil or natural gas, whether proposed for in State waters or outside of State waters.”

Both bills were simple and a straight forward thumb in the eye to the federal efforts to open the Atlantic to oil drilling. And while the New Jersey bill was destined to succeed, the South Carolina bill was destined to go nowhere in the deeply red legislative body.

One Atlantic Coast state has officially stood up to the Trump Administration. Hopefully more states and, if necessary, local governments like those along South Carolina’s coast will follow if needed with similar denials for infrastructure needed for offshore oil drilling.

Or, the administration can simply pull the plug on including any part of the Atlantic in a new plan for oil leases and we can all move on to other issues.

Frank Knapp Jr. is the president and CEO of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce.