Renewed federal efforts for oil and gas exploration off the mid-Atlantic coast, and threatened budget cuts for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of the Interior, trigger pushback from shore-based ecology advocates and federal lawmakers, and New Jersey's chief environmental strategist.

Flickr User Doc Searls
Flickr User Doc Searls

State Department of Environmental Protection (DEP Commissioner Bob Martin today added the Christie Administration's opposition of offshore drilling to the comments gathered by the Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), pointing out the potential negative impact of the Jersey Shore's natural resources, communities and economy.

BOEM is accepting comments as part of its planned five-year program to lease tracts of sea bed from Maine to Florida for future development, led by oil and gas drilling. The move took form during President Obama's term, but the extension of a moratorium brought it to a halt.

Governor Chris Christie hasn't wavered in opposing the industrialization of the waters off New Jersey, evidenced in his opposition to the proposed construction of a liquefied natural gas transfer station off Asbury Park earlier in his term. Liberty Natural Gas eventually scrapped the plan and attempted to revive it in New York.

Martin said, in part: "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's response drew a standing ovation from Highlands-based Clean Ocean Action.  "We urge all officials, candidates, and citizens to do the same and submit letters to oppose offshore oil drilling," COA Director Cindy Zipf said. "The comment period ends on August 17 at midnight. The clock is ticking to tell Secretary of Interior Zinke that offshore drilling is unacceptable."

Proposed spending cuts for the same Department of the Interior that oversees BOEM, along with cuts for EPA, trigger a protest tomorrow in Brick Township.

Members of regional environmental groups, local officials and Representative Frank Pallone (D-6) bring their opposition into public view at 11 AM on the fishing pier of Mantoloking Bridge County Park, on Hebert Street.

Among those expected to attend are state Assemblyman David Wolfe (R-10), who represents the coast from Bay Head to Seaside Heights in Trenton; Mayors John Ducey of Brick, Stephen Reid of Point Pleasant Beach, and Bill Curtis of Bay Head, Lavallette Council President Anita Zalom, Sierra Club NJ Director Jeff Tittel; and members of NJ Food and Water Watch, Save Barnegat Bay, NJ League of Conservation Voters, and others..

"Trump has declared war on the environment with his budget cuts and it will have a disastrous effect on New Jersey," Tittel said.

"These cuts will eliminate pollution testing for coastal waters, get rid of the National Estuaries Program, cut Superfund, climate and clean water programs, and more. We will see them attempt to dismantle of almost 50 years of environmental progress. Without proper testing, we won't know if our children will be swimming in sewage or oil from offshore drilling or whether the water is pure or the air is clean enough."

Tittle also took a gratuitous crack at shore Representative Tom MacArthur (R-3), accusing the Republican of being "in lock-step with the fossil fool" in the White House. So far, no response from MacArthur's office.

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