offshore drill hands offBradley Beach, N.J.- Today, New Jersey residents, New Jersey Sierra Club, Surfrider Foundation, the Mayor of Bradley Beach, Gary Engelstad, and U.S. Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06) joined hands in opposition to offshore drilling.The annual event, held across the country and around the world is even more serious this year because of the 2017-2022 Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program proposed by the Obama Administration. The Bureau of Ocean Energy and Management (BOEM) proposal could open up areas from Georgia to Virginia to offshore drilling, putting the New Jersey coast at risk. The gathering promoted the need to move away from dirty fossil fuels and call to move us into a clean energy future.

“Offshore drilling isn’t safe anywhere, and a spill in the Atlantic, as we’ve seen in the Gulf, would cause detrimental and lasting environmental and economic damage.  Instead of putting our coastal communities at risk with a dependence on dirty fuels, we should be seeking to protect our natural resources while boosting the economy through investments in clean energy,” said Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06).

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf caused unprecedented environmental and economic damage. The 200 million gallon explosion killed 11 people, injured 17 others, and harmed thousands of fish and wildlife species. The spill was the largest recorded in U.S. history and affected 16,000 total miles of coastline. Years later, oil is still washing up on the gulf’s shores and dozens of species have been affected including fish, oysters, and crab. Crabs and oysters have seen significant decreases in population growth. Noticeable declines in population and defects have also been recognized in fish like tuna and red snapper. The large-scale use of chemical dispersants to reduce the oil reaching the shore also has long-term effects relatively unknown. The current proposal in the Mid-Atlantic would put drilling less than 100 miles from New Jersey’s coast.

“We are here today standing up for our coast and against offshore drilling. People all across this country are united in the efforts to stop the proposals to drill not only here in the Atlantic but in Alaska. We need to oppose offshore drilling whether it’s in ANWAR, or Belmar, or Bradley Beach. We must say no to the fossil fools in Washington and instead move toward offshore wind. If the choice is either windmills or oil rigs, we choose wind. The spill in Virginia could have devastating impacts to our fishing and tourism economy. That is why the only oil we want to see on our beaches is suntan oil,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.

New Jersey has a multi-billion dollar fishing industry up and down its coast, which is at risk. Commercial and recreational fishing in New Jersey support 50,000 jobs and generate $7.0 billion annually. Coastal states like Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida are still recovering from impacts to their tourism and fishing industries five years later.

If an oil spill where to occur, it would have significant impacts on the tourism sector. During the summer of 1988 when medical waste washed up onto a 50-mile stretch of New Jersey’s shore, tourism dropped off significantly and the area directly lost at least $1 billion in revenue. An oil spill could trigger an even more dramatic decline in tourism and recreation revenues.  

“Opening the Atlantic to drilling would endanger two vital pillars of New Jersey’s economy – the fishing and tourism industries,” said Congressman Pallone. 

Sierra Club’s Don’t Rig Our Coastal Economy report found that New Jersey’s coastal tourism industry supports nearly 500,000 jobs, and one out of every six of the state’s jobs are linked in some form to its shoreline. Visits to the area generate $16.6 billion in wages and add $5.5 billion to the state’s tax coffers.

“Who would be benefiting most from drilling along our coastline?  Not the Jersey Shore communities, the seasonal beach goer, or the marine life that flourishes beneath us. It would be big business, the very antithesis of what makes the Jersey Shore so unique. Our coastline thrives on local business people; restaurant and shop owners, rental companies, fishermen, and boardwalk vendors; not oil and natural gas conglomerates. Drilling is not the answer,” said Kristen Gibbs, Chair of the Jersey Shore Surfrider Foundation.

This proposal undermines President Obama’s work on climate change. Drilling off our coast will add even more greenhouse gas emissions to our atmosphere. Offshore drilling is not worth the risk when we can be investing in renewable and offshore wind. 

“Instead of drilling off our coast we should end the billions in subsidies for Big Oil and use that money for clean energy. Oil companies are making billions of dollars in profit at the expense of our environment and our wallets. Not only does this put our coast at risk, but it undermines renewable energy and growing our green energy economy. We shouldn’t be fossil foolish with our coasts. New Jersey’s coastal economy is just starting to come back from Hurricane Sandy. We need off shore drilling, like we need another hurricane,” continued Tittel.

Even if the odds were one in a million, it’s not worth the risk to our economy and to our environment. We have to explore new technologies for wind and wave power and remove obstacles that stand in the way of clean energy.

“With the proposal to drill off the Mid-Atlantic, our beaches are in jeopardy. Drilling up to the Maryland border will put oil wells 100 miles from our beaches. Given the prevailing currents, any spill that happens in the Atlantic could come straight to New Jersey’s beaches. The BOEM proposal is shortsighted because of the potential for a little bit of oil could jeopardize our coast, our fisheries and our tourism industry.The oil could then be taken to New Jersey for refining,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “Instead of working to protect our coast, once again we see a proposal to drill off of our coast. This plan threatens our environment and will put our coast at risk.”

At 12:00 PM, in solidarity with people across the world, New Jersey residents joined hands across the shoreline in opposition to fossil fuels and the importance of moving toward a clean energy future.