Environmentalists balk at drilling off NJ coast
AVON, N.J. (AP) — With oil and gas drilling heating up as an issue in the presidential race, environmentalists and the governor reiterated their opposition to tapping reserves off the state's coast, saying it would endanger the environment and the tourism industry on which New Jersey is so dependent.
"It is a dark, dark day for the natural coast. Some might say it's as black as oil," said Cindy Zipf, executive director of Clean Ocean Action, who joined environmental and fishing groups at a news conference Wednesday on the Avon boardwalk. Gov. Jon Corzine reiterated his opposition Tuesday in a letter to U.S. Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne.
The House late Tuesday passed legislation that would open waters 50 miles off the Pacific and Atlantic coasts to oil and natural gas development — if the adjacent states agree to go along. The legislation now goes to the Senate.
New Jersey — joined by California and North Carolina — has so far refused to go along, meaning exploration could take place no closer than 100 miles offshore under the current proposal.
Tim Gallagher, Avon's borough administrator, said tourism is the lifeblood of his community.
"This year we had 600,000 visitors," he said. "We're very proud of our beach. It's clean, the water is clear. People come here for that reason."
Speaker after speaker said it was foolish to drill for oil off the East Coast when the United States exports more than a half-billion barrels of oil each year. This year, the country is on pace to send 681 million barrels abroad, Zipf said.