New Jersey Herald
August 16, 2017
James M. O’Neill, Staff Writer
President Trump advocates drilling offshore from Maine to Florida, but Gov. Christie is opposed, saying spills could harm Jersey Shore property and tourism James M. O’Neill/NorthJersey.com
The Christie administration Wednesday issued a rebuke to President Donald Trump’s bid to open Atlantic Ocean waters to offshore drilling.
In formal comments filed with the federal government, Gov. Chris Christie reaffirmed his opposition to any industrialization of the New Jersey coast that could affect the state’s natural resources, coastal communities or economy. It’s a rare case of policy agreement between environmental groups and Christie.
Trump has said he wants to expand development of the country’s oil and gas reserves and the U.S. Department of the Interior recently proposed a five-year program to lease large tracts of underwater areas along the outer continental shelf from Maine to Florida for oil and natural gas exploration and potential development.
Trump’s proposal would reverse a ban on offshore Atlantic drilling imposed by the Obama administration.
In 2016 former President Barack Obama put the Atlantic from Georgia to Virginia off-limits to any drilling for five years, citing concerns raised by the Pentagon that drilling could hinder the Navy’s live training exercises and testing of missile systems off the coast.
Before leaving office, Obama barred indefinitely any oil or gas drilling in 31 canyons beneath the Atlantic Ocean from Chesapeake Bay to New England. The areas covered involve nearly 6,000 square miles, or 3.8 million acres, and include the Hudson and Baltimore canyons off the New Jersey coast along the outer continental shelf. The Hudson Canyon reaches more than 10,000 feet deep – deeper than the Grand Canyon.
New Jersey officials have long opposed drilling in the Atlantic because any spills could put New Jersey’s estimated $700 billion in coastal properties at risk. The state’s $45 billion Shore-based tourism industry and its commercial fishing industry, which generates $8 billion annually and supports about 50,000 jobs, could also be impacted by a spill.
The areas in yellow show Atlantic canyons where oil and gas drilling was banned by the Obama administration. Triangle and rectangle off Cape Cod indicate national monument. (Photo: Bureau of Ocean Energy Management)
New Jersey officials have said even drilling in the Atlantic south of New Jersey could affect the state, since prevailing currents travel north and any spills could potentially befoul New Jersey’s beaches and bays.
In a letter to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management filed Wednesday, Bob Martin, commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Protection, outlined New Jersey’s opposition to any offshore drilling.
“Weighing the potential negative impacts to New Jersey’s natural resources, coastal communities, and economy with the potential for energy generation and current energy needs, the State of New Jersey opposes any portion of the North and Mid-Atlantic Ocean being included in the development of a National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program,” Martin wrote.
In the past, Christie has also vetoed proposals to build liquefied natural gas facilities off New Jersey’s coast.
“Energy exploration or facilities off our coast pose far too many unacceptable risks to our environment, to the safety and welfare of the State’s residents, and to New Jersey’s economy,” Martin said in a statement.
Several environmental groups posted to Twitter supporting Christie’s position against drilling.
The environmental group Clean Ocean Action “applauds Governor Christie’s leadership and steadfast opposition to offshore drilling anywhere in the Atlantic where it could harm the Jersey Shore,” said Cindy Zipf, the group’s executive director. “We urge all officials, candidates, and citizens to do the same and submit letters to oppose offshore oil drilling.”
The public comment period ends on Aug. 17 at midnight.