By Chris Rotolo |
ATLANTIC HIGHLANDS – Monday’s meeting of the New Jersey Senate Environment and Energy Committee (EEC) in Trenton jump-started what will be a big week for local environmental protection group Clean Ocean Action.
The Stop Offshore Oil and Gas Bill (A839) passed unanimously from the EEC, leaving Clean Ocean Action Executive Director Cindy Zipf feeling a sense of pride in the Garden State.
“New Jersey is standing in solidarity to protect our shores no matter where the offshore drilling is proposed,” Zipf said of the bill, which previously passed through the New Jersey Assembly by way of a 72-1 vote. “This was a nonpartisan statement. Everybody of all political stripes is behind defending and protecting the Jersey Shore.
“This bill will not provide 100 percent protection for our shores, but it will send a message to Washington to ‘Back off! New Jersey is not interested,’ ” said Zipf. “And not only are we not interested in drilling right off our coast, but we are not interested in drilling anywhere in the Atlantic Ocean.”
Zipf stressed the point that drilling directly off New Jersey’s seaboard would certainly be the worst case scenario, but prospecting for oil anywhere in the Atlantic Ocean could still provide devastating consequences for our local fishing, real estate and tourism industries, citing the strength and movements of the Gulf Stream and the Labrador Current.
“The way that they flow, any drilling anywhere in the Atlantic will absolutely impact New Jersey’s beaches,” Zipf said. “We saw that when I was kid growing up at the shore. I know I’m not the only one who remembers stepping on tar balls and oil deposits at the beach back in the ’60s and ’70s. It could happen again.”
This is a concept Clean Ocean Action will explore on Thursday, March 8 at The Downtown in Red Bank, when the organization – in cooperation with the Jersey Shore chapter of the Surfrider Foundation and the NY/NJ Baykeeper – will host a viewing of “Shore Stories: Six Short Films to Stop Offshore Drilling.”
The film series is an organizing initiative that utilizes these short documentary-style projects to build public opposition to offshore drilling, a topic that garnered local attention after the Trump administration announced a proposal on Jan. 4 that would open up a vast percentage of the United States’ coastal waters for prospecting.
“We refuse to hand over our shores to dirty oil without a fight, and urge our communities to submit a public comment,” NY/NJ Baykeeper Communications Outreach Director Sandra Meola said in a media release. “Too much is at stake for New Jersey’s pristine coastline and the aquatic life that depend on clean water. The Trump Administration has blatantly dismissed the voices of the public and countless elected officials who have loudly opposed offshore drilling, but we must continue to speak up.”
“Shore Stories” – a project curated by Working Films, a national nonprofit organization based in Wilmington, North Carolina – shines the spotlight on grassroots resistance movements taking place across the country, as well as tales from past drilling and exploration tragedies, including the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster.
“The goal is to put a face to the conversation taking place and make it real for those living within the communities who will be impacted,” Zipf said. “Unless there is enough public outcry, and political will by our elected leaders to stop it from happening, we could have major issues in our waters.”
According to Zipf, despite the dangers this proposal could expose our coastal waters to, generating public attention and discourse about the issue has been a difficult task, but she is hoping Thursday’s film event will provide one last platform for the conversation to be had, and what’s more, for the public to heard.
The window for public comments to be filed to the Federal Bureau of Ocean and Energy Management (BOEM) about their proposal closes on Friday, March 9, which is why Clean Ocean Action will be providing the use of computer kiosks to attendees so they may submit remarks directly from the event.
“Getting people to step up and be heard is the single most important part of the event,” Zipf said. “We have this little window of time to let the Trump administration know how we feel. And it’s pretty unanimous in our region. But if you don’t have that volume of voices speaking out against it, then they won’t hear us down in Washington, and the process will proceed.”
Tickets to the “Shore Stories” screening are free. You can reserve your passes by registering at eventbrite.com (search “Shore Stories”).
The films being shown are: “Protect The Atlantic” by Assateague Coastal Trust; “Slow Season” by John Fiege; “After the Spill” by Jon Bowermaster; “Sonic Seas” by NRDC & Imaginary Forces, with IFAW and Diamond Docs; “Protecting the Atlantic” by Swell Productions for the Surfrider Foundation; and “Wave of Opposition Against Offshore Drilling” by Oceana.
Reservation of tickets to the event will give attendees access to a variety of passed hors d’oeuvres, as well as the viewing of the films and a brief discussion with local environmental leaders. A reduced dinner menu and full bar will also be available, but are not included with the event ticket. Doors for the viewing open at 6:30 p.m. and the series is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. with the discussion and public comment period immediately following.
This article was first published in the March 8-15, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.
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