On behalf of my fellow members of the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders, Lillian Burry, John Curley and Patrick Impreveduto, I am announcing our strong opposition to the proposal made by U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to expand off-shore drilling for oil along the eastern sea coast, and most importantly, the Jersey Shore.

We support the bipartisan action recently taken by former Gov. Chris Christie, Gov. Phil Murphy and U.S. Sens. Bob Menendez and Corey Booker to demand that Secretary Zinke give the same exemption consideration to New Jersey that the state of Florida received.

Our beautiful and popular shorelines are a large part of what makes Monmouth County “the place you want to be.” Tourism is a money-maker for New Jersey. Residents and visitors alike know full well that our beaches are our bread and butter in the summer months and in fact, the four Shore counties (Monmouth, Atlantic, Cape May and Ocean) are responsible for approximately 50 percent of the total tourism revenue the state takes in each year. In addition, in 2016, more than 34,091 jobs in Monmouth County were directly tied to the tourism industry.

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Crippling a revenue-generating industry is simply not sound public policy and is irresponsible on both an environmental and economic level. This proposed plan calls for drilling activity within just three miles of our beaches. One catastrophic accident like the Deepwater Horizon-BP disaster could devastate the tourism and commercial fishing industries for decades to come.

Reports suggest that the amount of oil available off of the Atlantic coast from Maine to Florida will last this country less than one year and the gasoline just shy of 24 months. Is it worth risking the critically important ecological system and financial health of the region for such a short-term fix?

We should be encouraging investment right here in our cities, towns and counties. We need to build upon our successes in the tourism industry not destroy them with unnecessary and potentially dangerous industrial activity within reach of our shores. Hasn’t Monmouth County and the Jersey Shore overall suffered enough from the effects of Superstorm Sandy?

We have come a long way in the five plus years since those terrible days in Sandy’s wake. There has been much progress and once again people have returned with family and friends, they spend money in our shops and restaurants, and they bring vitality to our once decimated coastal towns.

This is not the time — and there will never be a time — when this kind of proposal will be a benefit to this county or to this state.

We demand that a federal public hearing be held in this region before any further action is taken on this proposal. We will not sit idly by while decisions are made about the financial and environmental sustainability of this region in a vacuum.

We are calling upon Secretary Zinke to do the right thing.