ASBURY PARK, N.J. — The Trump administration’s bid to expand offshore drilling sounds like a sweet deal when the oil and gas industry sells it: more jobs, increased local revenue and possibly an energy surplus that could lower home heating costs.

But Mayor John Moor’s opinion of the proposal to drill off the Atlantic Coast for the first time in decades is set:”I don’t think the risk is worth all the money in the world,” he said at City Hall, a few blocks from the popular beach boardwalk that is fueling his city’s economic turnaround.

“You could stack billions atop of billions atop of billions and it’s just not worth the risk.”

Moor’s unwavering view stretches the length of the 142-mile Jersey Shore, from northern municipalities such as Asbury Park to Cape May in the south. As Memorial Day and beach season approached, several mayors whose economies rely heavily on tourism said they are united in opposition to President Trump’s plan.

New Jersey beaches were an embarrassment 30 years ago, but state officials have poured millions of dollars into efforts to recover from a pollution catastrophe. The shore is revitalized, a state treasure that residents, conservationists and politicians fiercely protect.

Across the Atlantic Coast strip, mayors in nearly every city teamed with council members, conservationists, business leaders and residents to craft resolutions that denounced the proposal to widen federal offshore leasing to 90 percent of the outer continental shelf, an effort that began just days after Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced the plan in January.

They helped put New Jersey at the forefront of resistance to Trump’s “energy dominance” agenda, crafting obstacles to the five-year lease proposal that at least one other state copied and another is considering.


Last month, New Jersey became the first Atlantic state to adopt a legal barrier to offshore drilling. Lawmakers passed a bill, signed by Gov. Phil Murphy, D, that prohibits oil exploration in state waters, which extend three miles from shore.

An amendment to the law went further, barring the construction of infrastructure such as a pipeline to deliver oil and natural gas from drilling platforms in federal waters that start where state waters end, a move that would head off the industry’s favored method of bringing energy resources to shore.

New York quickly passed a similar law. And a Republican state senator in Delaware submitted a bill in mid-May that mirrors those of the state’s northern neighbors.

Some chamber of commerce estimates put the economic impact of coastal Atlantic beach tourism at $95 billion per year.

The administration’s proposal has stood on shaky ground from the beginning.

Within days of the announcement, Zinke flew to Florida to assure a political ally, Gov. Rick Scott, that his state would be exempt.

After a barrage of bipartisan criticism and requests for the same treatment from other coastal states, Zinke has backpedaled.

At congressional hearings in March, Zinke assured Pacific coast officials that a paucity of easily extractableoil there makes it unlikely that drilling will happen. Later he said something similar about Maine.

A pair of Republican representatives from New Jersey, Leonard Lance and Frank LoBiondo, said the secretary indicated to them that the state would also be left off the plan.


Regardless, they pushed for the state ban as “a backdoor way of blocking the offshore drilling,” according to its co-sponsor, state Sen. Jeff Van Drew, D-Cape May.

But banning gas pipelines in state waters isn’t “necessarily … a showstopper,” said Nicolette Nye, a spokeswoman for the National Ocean Industries Association, which represents oil and gas interests.

Pipelines are the cheapest way to transport oil and natural gas to a processing plant, she said, but an expensive plant could be built in federal waters or shipped in an offshore vessel.

“While the stated goal is to reduce dependence on oil, the fact remains that a major shift from oil as a fuel is still many years away,” Nye said. “Thus such a pipeline ban will likely actually increase importation of oil from foreign countries.”

But Jersey Shore drilling opponents are deeply influenced by the shore’s dark history, when federal officials allowed state and local governments to dump millions of tons of sewage into the ocean.

In the late 1980s, the Jersey Shore’s reputation was garbage.

It was a victim of a lawful practice that polluted the coast. Six New Jersey cities and three in New York routinely sent barges piled with 8 million wet tons of sewage to a dumping area 100 miles off Cape May.

Floating trash washed up on beaches from Long Island to Cape May.

The result was an environmental disaster that led to a tourism exodus from New Jersey beaches, billions of dollars in losses and a generation of conservationists and politicians who said “never again.”

For others on the Jersey Shore, resistance means there is a better chance that ocean views and waters will remain pristine, beckoning to tourists and their wallets.

“We’re pretty passionate about protecting our tourism economy,” said Vicki Clark of the Cape May County Chamber of Commerce. She recalled lobbying mayors and council members to pass resolutions when she bumped into them on the streets.

Martin Pagliughi, mayor of Avalon, who called the opposition a no-brainer, was a quick sell.

Cape May Mayor Clarence Lear, who doesn’t want to see a single oil platform on his horizon, asked what he could do.

Clark summed up her lobbying to fight Trump’s proposal: “It was easy,” she said.

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