Drill Off Jersey Coast? Are You Nuts?

Steve Adubato debates the feasibility of off-shore drilling in New Jersey waters.

Heartbreaking scenes of oil-drenched wildlife—like this pelican, found on the Louisiana coast—have become symbolic of the BP drilling disaster that left untold millions of gallons of oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico.
AP Photos/Charlie Riedel.

For those of us who grew up spending summers at the Jersey Shore, it’s hard to forget the dirty, disgusting syringes and medical waste that washed up on our treasured beaches in 1987 and 1988. It was gross. It ruined vacations and seriously hurt the Shore economy—and New Jersey’s reputation as a summertime destination.

Bad as that was, imagine how horrible it is for the folks on the Gulf Coast following the BP oil disaster. In light of their plight, I can’t fathom that people are debating whether to allow drilling for oil off the coast of New Jersey. It’s nuts. As you can tell from the Gulf Coast spill, it isn’t a question of how likely it is for a spill to occur, but whether anyone is prepared for such a catastrophic event. It only has to occur once, and if it does, it is impossible to put the genie back in the bottle, or in this case, the oil back in the well.

New Jersey has a nearly $40 billion tourism industry. We also have a flourishing Atlantic fisheries industry. Are we willing to put these essential drivers of the Jersey economy in jeopardy? Are we going to trust the oil companies—BP or anyone else—to put the money into safety research? They are too greedy and too cheap.

Further, I’m not convinced that our government is all that good at monitoring or regulating oil-company activities. Just look at BP. They had several oil-related accidents and incidents prior to the Gulf Coast fiasco, but were allowed to continue drilling. We trusted them to do the right thing, and look what happened.

A few months ago, the Obama administration introduced a plan to open up the Atlantic Ocean for oil exploration and offshore drilling. Specific locations were mentioned off the Virginia coast and in the Delaware Bay, close to Cape May. That talk has subsided since the Gulf disaster. (Immediately after the BP fiasco, the president called for a six-month ban on deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. However, U.S. District Court Judge Martin Feldman struck down the moratorium on June 22.)

At the time, U.S. Senator Robert Menendez said, “It’s fundamentally wrong as an energy policy when we can drive toward renewable energy sources. I think the administration is wrong on this and they are going to have an adversary.”

Menendez’s fellow Democratic senator, Frank Lautenberg, concurred with him, as did Republican Governor Chris Christie, who expressed skepticism about the Obama proposal before the Gulf Coast disaster. “I’m very uncomfortable with the idea of drilling off the coast of New Jersey,” he said when the plan was announced. “New Jersey’s coast is one of its economic engines, and I would have to really be convinced of both the economic viability of having to do it and the environmental safety. And at this point, I’m not convinced of either.”

When it comes to government policy, there are often murky areas and tough calls. But this issue is crystal clear: Drilling anywhere near the Jersey Shore is way too risky. We can’t risk the potential loss of jobs, destruction of wildlife, and damage to our reputation as a tourist destination that would follow a drilling accident.

Let’s take this idea off the table while the graphic images of oily birds and tar-ball-littered beaches associated with the BP disaster are fresh in our minds. And let’s keep those memories fresh. No doubt, in a year or two, Sarah Palin and her “drill baby drill” crowd are going to try to restart this debate.

Read more Jersey Living articles.

By submitting comments you grant permission for all or part of those comments to appear in the print edition of New Jersey Monthly.

Required not shown
Required not shown