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Panel Discusses Proposed Clean Ocean Zone for NY/NJ Bight

At the Bayshore Senior Center in Keansburg, a distinguished panel discussed on August 15 the motivations and plans for a federally sponsored "Clean Ocean Zone" for the NY/NJ Bight.

On August 15 a distinguished panel discussed for an interested group of about 60 people the motivations and plans for a federally sponsored Clean Ocean Zone that would:

1) safeguard environmental clean-up achievements to date in the New York harbor and its tributary rivers and

2) introduce needed protection for the New York/New Jersey Bight against the environmental and economic threats of proposed off-shore oil and gas drilling and Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) facilities for exporting the new natural gas supplies recently created via hydraulic fracturing (fracking) operations in nearby States.

This August 15 discussion took place at the Bayshore Senior Center in Keansburg.  It was moderated by Joe Reynolds, Co-Chair of the Bayshore Regional Watershed Council. The distinguished panelists were: Dr. Richard Lathrop, President of the American Littoral Society's Board of Trustees, Chris Len, Attorney for the NY/NJ Baykeeper, Sean Dixon, Coastal Policy Attorney for Clean Ocean Action, and Jim Walsh, Regional Director of Food & Water Watch. Following this panel discussion, special guest speaker Congressman Frank Pallone gave his perspective on the challenges facing federal legislation under consideration to create this Clean Ocean Zone – the first of its kind in the United States.

This proposed Clean Ocean Zone would protect the New York/New Jersey Bight, which extends from Montauk to Cape May and out to the edge of the Continental Shelf – an ocean area consisting of about 19,000 square miles. Federal jurisdiction extends to 200 miles from shore, which includes all of the Continental Shelf in this area. Federal action is needed to create this Clean Ocean Zone because State jurisdiction only extends out to 3 miles from shore.

In addition to the environmental hazards of looming off-shore oil and gas drilling and LNG facilities, such drilling also imposes severe economic threats to the NY/NJ area's long-established commerce (shipping), tourist (recreational boating) and fishing (commercial and sport) industries. And in addition, this same area's prospective off-shore wind-energy industry certainly would not be helped by such drilling and LNG facilities.

Congressman Pallone indicated that while Clean Ocean Zone legislation does have bipartisan support by the entire New Jersey congressional delegation, the powerful oil, gas and LNG export industries' lobbyists control enough congressmen in other areas of the country to present a significant obstacle to its approval. Perhaps an answer is building bridges with congressmen for the west coast States, including Alaska, the gulf States, where BP's debacle is causing such great environmental and economic hardships, well as other States up and down the eastern seaboard.

In the mean time, the Bayshore Regional Watershed Council, the American Littoral Society and the NY/NJ Baykeeper are working with interested citizen volunteers to document the types and quantities of existing plant and animal life in bayshore waters to support damage recovery litigation against off-shore drilling and/or LNG companies in the event of future spills in this area. Experience with prior oils spills demonstrates that the culpable companies typically deny the pre-spill existence of any significant plant or animal life in the impacted areas.



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bill wolfe August 17, 2012 at 09:38 AM
Would the Clean Ocean Zone protect fish as well as designation of an "Marine Protected Area" (MPA) under current federal law known as Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation Act? If not, why not seek MPA designation? Wouldn't that be a LOT more politically feasible, as it would not be opposed by all other powerful coastal states? Would it protect mammals and Management Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act? How about a comparison to the current Clean Water Act? Again, where is the effort to better implement and enforce current law? Again, isn't that a much more effect use of resources?
bill wolfe August 17, 2012 at 10:59 AM
I guess the just of my question and primary concern is whether the Clean OCean Zone is a realistic effort to reform current law and policy, or merely a prop for certain shore groups to campaign and fundraise around. Similarly, it seems like the COZ provides a platform for shire politicians to create an appearance that they are working on behalf of the ocean environment, but at no real political cost because the legislation is a non-starter in Congress. In the meantime, the COZ sponsorship provides political cover for rollbacks to Magnuson-Stvens fisheries law, under the guise of "flexibility"
Gene Geer August 17, 2012 at 04:15 PM
Good article. Congressman Pallone, as he did in an earlier talk he gave at Brookdale Community College several months ago, made the point that fewer and fewer (if any, now) decisions on environmental issues in Congress are made on the basis of science. Rather, they are religious based, or made to please political donors. For example, many spokespersons for the right say that the earth has been given to us for our own use, so we don't have to be concerned, or accountable, for our actions. "Might as well continue to burn fossil fuel, because the accumulation of carbon dioxide is not causing global warming." Bull. It is. With an election coming up , where many candidates don't even support the teaching of evolution without any hedging about other possibilities, our future as an enlightened country looks very dim indeed.
Eleanor August 17, 2012 at 04:32 PM
'Distinguished panel'? Where are the environmental scientists? The marine biologists? The biochemists? You have a trustee from a conservation advocacy group, a couple lawyers and the regional director for another advocacy group. This is another anti-fossil fuel, no offshore drilling, lets all get our power from windmills trial balloon group.
Gene Geer August 17, 2012 at 05:42 PM
We all know that windmills are basically a scam. Congressman Pallone has stated several times that when he is talking about windmills he means only offshore. I think he is also somewhat mistaken there, because serious questions about windmills have arisen where, needing fossil-fueled standby power plants to operate when the wind dies down, they may not appreciably, if at all, reduce net carbon dioxide generation. I've yet to see a good engineering study that shows windmills are a true asset in reducing global warming.
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