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.