The Christie administration yesterday renewed its opposition to any plans to open the waters off the Jersey coast to oil and gas exploration, a move being considered by the federal government.
In a letter to the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin said the state strongly opposes any inclusion in a new five-year leasing program being developed by the federal agency.
The new program, covering from 2019 to 2024, is part of an initiative by the Trump administration to expand oil and gas exploration beyond the areas included in the current leasing program, which excludes the Atlantic Ocean.
“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.
The new leasing program already had drawn opposition from coastal advocates and members of the state’s congressional delegation, citing the threat of drilling to the state’s $44 billion tourism economy.
Martin noted the state has consistently and steadfastly opposed the industrialization of the coast. “Given the role of New Jersey’s coastal waters in our economy, the National OCS program would put at risk not only our coastal economy but a significant portion of our statewide economy,’’ Martin said.
“These waters are home to plant, fish, mammal and avian species, including federally listed endangered species,’’ the commissioner wrote. “The risk of adverse impacts to our marine waters and the species that depend on them is unacceptable.’’
Cindy Zipf, executive director of Clean Ocean Action, lauded the administration for weighing in on the new leasing proposal.
“COA applauds Gov. Christie’s leadership and steadfast opposition to offshore drilling anywhere in the Atlantic Ocean where it could harm the Jersey Shore,’’ Zipf said.
In a Request for Information, the federal agency is seeking input from officials and others in what is essentially the first step in developing a new leasing program for the Outer Continental Shelf. The public comment period closes today.