Bipartisan Coalition of NJ Mayors Warn Offshore Drilling Threatens Jersey Shore Beaches, Economy

NEWARK, N.J. – U.S. Senators Robert Menendez and Cory Booker, and Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (N.J.-06) sent a letter today to President Obama calling on his administration to abandon plans to open parts of the Atlantic Ocean to offshore oil and gas drilling.  The federal lawmakers were joined on a conference call by representatives from the N.J. League of Municipalities and a bipartisan coalition of mayors to discuss the threats offshore drilling poses to the economic and environmental health of the Jersey Shore.  

“The plan’s proposal for oil production in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia would put New Jersey’s economy and shore communities at significant risk,” wrote Sens. Menendez and Booker and Rep. Pallone.  “We strongly urge you to consider removing all Atlantic planning areas prior to the issuance of the next draft of the Five-Year Plan.”


New Jersey’s federal lawmakers cited the 2010 Deepwater Horizon catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico and the long term marine and coastal damage created by the massive oil spill.

“At a time when New Jerseyans are still working to rebuild their lives after Hurricane Sandy, the last thing we need is the prospect of a manmade disaster from an oil spill,” the letter continued.

The Jersey Shore is home to over $700 billion in coastal properties and a tourism industry that generates $38 billion a year and directly supports almost half a million direct and indirect jobs, or nearly ten percent of the state’s entire workforce.  New Jersey’s vibrant commercial fishing industry generates over $7.9 billion annually and supports over 50,000 jobs. The state has one of the largest saltwater recreational fishing industries in the nation.  All of which is threatened by offshore drilling, they argued. 

“We urge you to consider focusing your Administration's offshore energy production on clean, limitless wind power that can coexist with, rather than compromise, our marine ecosystems,” they wrote.

The Senators and Congressman held a conference call with reporters and were joined by Piscataway Mayor Brian Wahler, president of the N.J. League of Municipalities, Republican Mayors Thomas Kelaher of Toms River and Suzanne Walters of Stone Harbor, and Democratic Mayor Sue Howard of Monmouth Beach.  They represent a growing coalition of New Jersey public officials who stand united in opposition to offshore drilling in the Atlantic:

Mayor Wahler:  “I think it is safe to say after meeting with several mayors there will be a unanimous resolution out of the League supporting any action to prevent this drilling from happening anywhere on the eastern seaboard.”

Mayor Guardian: “Atlantic City’s vitality depends on protecting our beaches.  I come from a town where gambling is a way of life for us but I certainly don’t want to gamble with offshore drilling in the Atlantic.  We have had enough natural and economic storms over the last two years, we certainly don’t need another manmade storm coming our way.”

Mayor Kelaher:  “I know now firsthand what a disaster can do to a community.  Superstorm Sandy devastated Toms River.  It’s frightening to think that a manmade disaster can equal that of what Mother Nature did to us.  Just look what happened to the Gulf with the BP spill.  It would be devastating.”

Mayor Walters: “The tourism industry in Cape May County comprises 48% of our economy, generating over $5 billion in annual revenue.  We are totally opposed to any drilling in the Atlantic Ocean.”

Mayor Howard:  "Our shore communities are still fighting to recover from the devastation of Superstorm Sandy and the risk of another catastrophic event is the last thing we need.  We know too well that accidents happen and our beaches are too important to place at risk.  They are a source of enjoyment to millions of visitors to our shore each year and the primary driver of our $38 billion tourism economy.  I'm old enough to remember going to the USO beach in Long Branch, at the border of Monmouth Beach, in the 1960s and having tar from an oil spill all over the beach and of course our feet and even on our bathing suits. We certainly don't want to subject our beautiful beaches to that ever again."

The full text of the letter is below: