BY JOE MANGINO
Why am I not surprised that the same people who think opening up nearly all US waters to offshore drilling would schedule a public hearing on Valentine’s Day? Last week, even though it was my 21st wedding anniversary, I headed out to Hamilton on 2/14 with other NJOPers and excellent NJ organizations for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s hearing on offshore drilling. As part of what President Trump is calling the “America First Offshore Energy Strategy,” he lifted the moratorium on gas and oil drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf. Setting up drilling operations off our coast is an invitation to a man made disaster that would dwarf Sandy recovery and impact every aspect of our life.
My wife Beckie and I have been through a lot in the last five years, as many of you know. Our home flooded during Superstorm Sandy, and we fought for three years to get home. Many families here in New Jersey are still struggling to recover from Sandy. Many coastal communities have spent the past five years and billions of dollars on beach replenishment, infrastructure improvements, commercial and personal property mitigation, and marketing and promotions to lure tourists back. All that hard work and investment by so many goes out the window when our fisheries collapse, tar balls cling to our newly replenished dunes and oil soaked gannets, gulls and shorebirds begin washing up on our beaches.
I wont stand by and help the fossil fuel industry milk their last morsels of profit, regardless of the risk it poses to us. It’s on us to do everything we can, both at the state and federal level to stop this through direct action, our powerful stories, legislation, and what ever else it might take. We have a broad bipartisan consensus from our state and federal elected officials – a rarity these days – that offshore drilling is not wanted off our coast and poses a serious threat.
To add insult to injury, Department of Interior Secretary Zinke backtracked and exempted Florida from drilling due to its “unique” coastline and dependency on tourism. So now that Florida has its exemption in hand my question is where is New Jersey’s exemption? Does New Jersey’s tourism, commercial fishery, recreational fishery and coastal environment not qualify as unique?
Don’t be foolish and think it can’t happen here. Do you remember back in the 80’s when medical waste kept washing up on Jersey beaches and the impact that had on our shore towns? Do you believe big oil has safeguards in place to protect us? Remember this is an administration proud of its efforts to rollback environmental regulations. Regulations such as those put into place in 2010 after the Deepwater Horizon disaster, the worst oil spill in U.S. history, in which 11 people died, 4.9 million barrels of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico and there was over $17 billion of damage to natural resources.
There is no sitting on the sidelines with this issue. There are those who care little about fishing, sea life, birds a healthy environment and our wonderful communities. Their only interests are profit, power and greed. So you need to make a choice. If you care, don’t sit back and think someone will do all of the work for you. You are needed now. The flounder, clams and oysters you love to eat, your next vacation or even your job just may depend on it. Join us at an Action Kickoff meeting to learn more and pick up resources to fight this together.