N.J. environmental groups band together to oppose expanded offshore drilling

Environmentalists gather on Asbury Park's boardwalk to speak out against the Trump administration plan for expanded offshore drilling. (Phil Gregory/WHYY)

Environmentalists gather on Asbury Park's boardwalk to speak out against the Trump administration plan for expanded offshore drilling. (Phil Gregory/WHYY)

Environmental activists in New Jersey are mobilizing against the Trump administration’s plan to open nearly all of the nation’s coastal waters to oil and gas drilling.

Leaders of environmental groups gathered on the boardwalk in Asbury Park Wednesday to demonstrate opposition to the plan.

Drilling for oil and gas off the Jersey Shore could threaten marine life and hurt tourism, said Jennifer Coffey, executive director of the Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions.

“It is madness, absolute madness to propose oil and gas drilling off of a coast, where we are so reliant upon it for our economy, for cherishing our environment, for protecting our public health and safety, and for enjoyment,” Coffey said.

Allowing drilling that could come as within 3 miles of the Jersey Shore is not worth the risks, added Samantha Kreisler with New York New Jersey Baykeeper.

“We must take the lessons learned from the Deepwater Horizon spill and stop this plan from threatening New Jersey’s fishing industry, coastal tourism economy, and wildlife including vulnerable and endangered species,” she said.

Tim Dillingham with the American Littoral Society says offshore drilling could jeopardize the quality of life at the Jersey Shore.

“What does it take for the federal government to understand that the public in New Jersey wants a clean, wild, open ocean?” he said. “We didn’t spend 25 years cleaning it up from New York City’s sewage sludge, from industrial waste being dumped off our shore, from proposals for nuclear plants and wood burning, to turn it over to big oil.”

The U.S. Interior Department has said that opening up offshore areas to drilling can help America achieve “energy dominance.”

The groups held the rally because a public meeting scheduled by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management for Feb. 14 near Trenton doesn’t allow for public testimony, instead asking people to submit online comments.

That meeting is set for 3-7 p.m. at Hilton Garden Inn, 800 Route 130, Hamilton, Mercer County.

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