Offshore Drilling: Is Open Public Comment Needed Here?

This is a real life example of what can be at stake, as the public is denied the right to a voice.

Here’s a perfect example of public reaction when a government agency exercises its right NOT to open a meeting for attendees to comment, when the discussion is on a topic of passionate interest to a broad segment of people. NJFOG feels your opinions should be heard on the open government issues raised here.

The Facts: The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) will be conducting an official public meeting, on Wednesday, February 14th, from 3pm-7pm at the Hilton Garden Inn in Hamilton, NJ. It is to be New Jersey’s only official public meeting on the Trump administration’s new draft of a 5-year Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program. It calls for opening the Atlantic Ocean from Maine to Florida for drilling, including all of the Jersey Shore and NY’s South Shore and allowing rigs to come within 3 miles of beaches. Since the BOEM is neither a school district or a municipal government it is not required by NJ’s Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA) to allow spoken testimony to be heard.

The Response: A nearly 40-member environmental coalition and individuals, who want the bureau to hear them, plan to hold a “Citizen Hearing” concurrently in an adjacent room at the Hilton Garden Inn. NJ’s Anti-Offshore Oil Coalition also hopes to kick-off with a Press Conference at 2:30pm. Protesters also will publicize their sentiments via buttons, stickers, information, fact sheets, banners, props etc. An official legal transcriber will be there to record the opposition’s testimony.

This is why our Sunshine Law (the OPMA) needs to be amended to require all, not just some, public agencies to allow live public comment at their meetings.