TOMS RIVER – The Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders has reiterated its long-standing opposition to any drilling for oil or natural gas off of the New Jersey coast.

In an April 28 letter to Senators Robert Menendez and Cory Booker, Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari, writing on behalf of the entire board, expressed concern that Washington was once again exploring the idea of offshore drilling.

“The residents of Ocean County and of the entire state of New Jersey realize that our coast is a natural treasure; a gift to be enjoyed by everyone both today and for generations to come,” Vicari said in the letter. “On behalf of the entire Board of Freeholders, I am writing to you to once again voice my continuing opposition to any drilling for oil or natural gas off of our coastline.

The letter was also sent to Reps. Chris Smith, Tom MacArthur and Frank LoBiondo.
“As the summer season begins and tourism kicks into high gear, I want everyone to know that we will continue to strongly and vocally oppose any plan to industrialize our coastline,” Vicari said in the letter. “Tourism is the lifeblood of our local economy. As a serving Freeholder for the past 36 years, I join with our business owners, from the largest hotels to the smallest Mom & Pop stands, in saying that we will fight against any endeavor that places our environment and our economy at risk.”

Vicari said history shows that any damage to the environment spells disaster to the local economy.

He recalled the damage done during the 1980s and 1990s when waste from New York City and Northern New Jersey washed up on the county’s beaches.

“Many of our local businesses suffered because the continuing news reports of the wash-ups,” he said.

Vicari added that an industrial accident off the coast would impact not only the ocean, but the bays and surrounding ecosystems as well.

He pointed to the effects of oil spills along the gulf coast.

It took years to clean up that spill and for those communities to recover, Vicari said, referring to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill from an offshore drilling platform.

A major spill off of the New Jersey coast could pollute the coast from Long Island to Cape May and beyond, he said.

The Freeholders are part of a growing bipartisan effort in opposition to offshore drilling. Republican and Democratic officials from the local level to federal representatives have already come together to block any attempt to open the sea floor to industrial drilling.