The on December 29, 2017 titled, Oil and

The United States Department of the
Interior’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) published a
proposed rule in the Federal Register
on December 29, 2017 titled, Oil and Gas and Sulphur Operations on the Outer
Continental Shelf – Oil and Gas Production Safety Systems – Revision. The
proposed rule aims to appease a series of open-ended Executive Orders outlined
in Section C of the proposed rule, and, ultimately allows for offshore drilling
along the Atlantic Coast, including 130-miles of iconic New Jersey
coastline.  While the BSEE touts the economic
and diplomatic benefits of the proposed rule, New Jersey’s state officials have
resisted the proposed changes, claiming that offshore drilling poses a threat
to both the economic and environmental health of the state.  Since the publication of the proposed rule,
New Jersey officials have pushed to attain the same exempt status preventing
offshore drilling that was recently granted to Florida after Governor Rick
Scott’s successful plea that the threats to Florida’s $769 billion coastal
economy and 7.7 million coastal employees1
would face from off-shore drilling would not be worth the risks associated with
the economic benefits that were projected.

According to the same study that valued
Florida’s coastal worth, New Jersey’s coastal economy was appraised at $504
billion with 3.8 million coastal employees1.  Although New Jersey’s proposed numbers are
less than Florida’s respective totals, it is imperative to take into account the
fact that Florida’s exempt coastline is nearly ten-times longer than that of New
Jersey. The New Jersey coastline, although smaller, delivers more contribution
to the gross domestic product (GDP) per mile than that of Florida.  Due to New Jersey’s per-mile value, 50-miles
of damaged New Jersey coast line would likely be more costly than 50-miles of
the exempt Florida coast, with limited exceptions.  Based on this reasoning, one could certainly
make the case that if Florida is worthy of exemption, so is the Garden State.

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More important than the calculated
coastal GDP are the benefits that are not easily assigned dollar amounts.  A day spent outside enjoying the rich
ecosystems of the New Jersey coastline is scientifically proven to have
numerous medical benefits ranging from reducing stress to improvements in
respiratory disease2.  Traditional medicine also finds itself
reliant on the fragile ecosystem.  The
humble horseshoe crab has unique blood that medical researchers use to extract
a supply of limulus ameobocyte lysate (LAL) which is used to both sterilize
instruments and create vaccines3.  And certainly there is no way to quantify the
intrinsic joy that the 98 million people experienced visiting the Jersey Shore
in 20164.

At this point, I would be remiss if
I did not discuss my own incentives and how they ultimately affect my opinions
on the matter.  As a licensed geologist, there
is a personal liability to do everything in my professional power to protect
public health and safety.  My livelihood
depends on my ability to effectively reduce and, if possible, eliminate the risks
of unwanted environmental consequences.  However, if there were no risks being taken, I
would be unemployed.  Therefore, I am
incentivized to remain educated so that I can understand risks, and ultimately
help my clients when they are faced with the difficult task of making
risk-based decisions. When it comes to off-shore drilling, it is imperative
that both the politicians and the public understand the risks. In 2010, the Deepwater
Horizons disaster in the Gulf of Mexico reminded us that a release in our
waters impacts far more area than the equivalent release on land.

Fundamental
to this discussion is one of the more insidious truths of our American culture;
nearly everything we consume has an environmental risk or cost associated with
its production.  Most of the time, the
average person does not encounter the risk or cost associated with a product because
it is produced elsewhere.  With off-shore
drilling, the risks are to our shores, our boardwalks, our beaches, our ecosystems,
our economy, and our citizens.  I hope those
pushing for offshore drilling have taken the time to comprehend and respect
that the only way to ever truly eliminate a risk, is to not take one at all.  And yet, the BSEE may rightfully say that
with no risk, there would be no America. 
While I agree with that sentiment, there are some risks not worth
taking.  The fact that Florida has
received an exemption shows that the proponents of the proposed rule agree with
me.  The New Jersey coastline is valuable
and it is vulnerable.  The people and
politicians of New Jersey are united and speaking with a unified voice, and I
agree.  As to whether or not that voice
is heard remains to be seen

1 State
of the US Oceans and Coastal Economies 2016 Update. National Ocean
Economics Program

2 Biophilia:
Does Visual contact with Nature Impact on Health and Well-Being. Grinde,
Bjorn and Grindal Patil, Grete. International Journal of Environmental Research
and Public Health

3 The
Horseshoe Crab, Limulus Polyphemus: 200 Million Years of Existence, 100 Years
of Study. Birkson, Jim and Smith, Stephen.

4 The
Economic impacts of Tourism in New Jersey. Tourism Economics, an Oxford
Economics company