President Donald Trump has announced plans to expand oil drilling, potentially offshore of New Jersey, putting our coastal communities and economies at risk. The administration’s executive order directs the Interior Department to develop a new five-year oil and gas leasing program, replacing the one finalized by the previous administration late last year. The order also seeks to overturn former President Barack Obama’s decision to permanently ban drilling in 3.8 million acres in the north and mid-Atlantic Ocean.

Our coastal communities are built on tourism jobs, jobs that exist as long as our shores are clean and safe to visit. We shouldn't risk those jobs and the livelihood of our residents for offshore drilling. And don't think that if a spill happens in Virginia it can't reach New Jersey beaches. Drilling in the Atlantic will impact all of us.

America’s ocean, waves and beaches are vital recreational, economic and ecological treasures that would be polluted by an increase in offshore drilling. Offshore oil drilling creates serious environmental impacts associated with each stage of offshore oil drilling, whether or not there is a catastrophic spill. The process of offshore oil drilling releases thousands of gallons of polluted water into the ocean. High concentrations of metals have been found around drilling platforms in the Gulf of Mexico and have been shown to accumulate in fish, mussels and other seafood, polluting the food supply. It also endangers ocean tourism and recreation in New Jersey, annually supporting $3.5 billion in GDP and 90 thousand jobs according to the National Ocean Economics Program.

The NOEP also reports that ocean-related tourism and recreation contribute three times the amount of money to the U.S. economy than offshore oil production. For hotels, restaurants, bait and tackle shops, outdoor recreation and rental stores, and businesses with an economic model that depend on clean and healthy coasts, the business case to oppose oil drilling is clear. In addition, industry projections of the benefits of new offshore drilling have been challenged for relying on flawed assumptions, such as the inclusion of oil and gas resources that are not economically recoverable.

The Surfrider Foundation is alarmed to see the Trump administration move to expand offshore drilling in U.S. waters. Offshore oil drilling is a dirty and dangerous practice that threatens the health of our ocean and coastal communities. Expanding offshore drilling will damage marine ecosystems, in addition to industries such as tourism, recreation, and fishing that generate billions of dollars for our nation’s economy. With this action, the Trump administration is putting the interests of the oil and gas lobby over the hundreds of communities, thousands of businesses, and millions of citizens who spoke out against new offshore drilling.

Chad Nelsen, CEO, and Beth Kwart, chairwoman, South Jersey Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation