In 2010, people in Atlantic City protest the possibility of offshore oil drilling. There was exploratory drilling for oil and natural gas from 1947 to the early 1980s, but never a producing well off the Mid-Atlantic Coast.PRESS ARCHIVES

Op-ed by Caren Fitzpatrick, of Linwood, is a commissioner of Atlantic County.

August 8, 2023

First appeared in The Press of Atlantic City

Big Oil groups have been relentless in their mission to lift restrictions on oil and natural gas exploration and drilling along the outer continental shelf, which runs about 3 miles off the coast of New Jersey. Their latest tactic? Working through shadow groups like Save Long Beach Island and the American Coalition for Ocean Protection to stifle offshore wind development.

More offshore drilling should no longer be an option. Do we not remember the Anitra oil spill at the mouth of the Delaware Bay? It devastated 50 miles of New Jersey coastline, causing tar balls to wash ashore in Stone Harbor, Avalon, Ocean City, Longport, Margate, Atlantic City, Brigantine, and as far north as Holgate. The spill also directly harmed bird species like the piping plovers, whose environment wasn’t fully restored until five years after the spill.

New Jersey doesn’t have to go down this destructive path again — we can, and should, support forwarding the offshore wind development projects that Big Oil is so desperately trying to delay.

The synergy of economic benefits offshore wind brings to South Jersey partnered with the advancement of the state’s renewable energy objectives is a true win-win. As people work toward meeting Gov. Phil Murphy’s renewable energy objective and President Biden’s national offshore wind agreement, they must keep in mind the opportunity cost of delaying these critical projects.

For one, this project is an economic boon for the state and will create job opportunities here in New Jersey. Three of the proposed offshore wind farm projects are estimated to inject $4.7 billion into the state’s economy and create over 10,000 jobs — thousands of which will be union construction jobs thanks to a project labor agreement. This also helps keep students coming out of schools like Atlantic Cape Community College, Stockton University and Rowan University in-state with abundant opportunities to fill critical roles within offshore wind development.

Moreover, developing offshore wind farms is the right thing to do for the environment. This project specifically enables the state to continue pioneering the path to 100% clean power by 2035 by providing 7,500 megawatts of renewable energy; enough to power more than a third of the homes in the state. This is a massive step towards securing the governor’s goal of 11 gigawatts of offshore wind energy by 2040, which could power 3.2 million homes.

Additionally, by securing America an energy independent future we can bolster its national security and foreign oil import deals will no longer determine foreign policy outcomes.

Despite these clear benefits, Big Oil and the extreme-right politicians they have in their pockets are trying to halt the project altogether by spreading misinformation. In fact, more than 80% of Facebook posts that mentioned wind energy contained misinformation about offshore wind farms and whale populations, according to a report released March 23 by the nonprofit Media Matters for America.

But developing offshore wind hasn’t always been such a politically polarizing issue. In 2010, New Jersey passed the bipartisan Offshore Wind Energy Development Act with Gov. Christie’s approval, creating incentives for the development of offshore wind energy in New Jersey. At the time, Christie said offshore wind development, not liquified natural gas, was the right path to pursue because “not only is it good for the environment, but … it’s going to help us create jobs.

”When deciding whether or not to pursue wind energy, the decision should be obvious. One of these choices will help alleviate threats to the environment and supply New Jersey with an influx of jobs. The other will continue the destruction of the environment while oil corporations laugh all the way to the bank. It’s time to move New Jersey forward.