216 Stelton Road
Piscataway NJ 08854
OIL SPILL PREVENTION
From watching the aftermath of the Exxon Valdez oil spill off the coast of Alaska, we all know how devastating oil spills can be. In 2004 New Jersey experienced a similar horror when the oil tanker Athos I's hull was ripped open by an iron pipe in the Delaware River. The spill release tens of thousands gallons of oil into the water. As with all oil spills, the effect on wildlife, especially water fowl, was immense. While oil is a vital resource, when spilled it can have negative impacts on many aspects of the environment.
Oil spills are disastrous to fish and other wildlife. We have all seen the pictures of the penguins covered in slick black sludge. According to the US EPA, oil spills can impact an ecosystem in two ways. The first is the physical damage that oil can cause it individual animals. When oil covers an animal such as a fish, seal, or bird it can smother the animal. Also, oil itself can be toxic to some species causing death. The second effect is much harder to counter act. Like any ecosystem, the relationship between different marine animals, the plants in the water, and the abiotic systems that contain them is fragile. As large numbers of animals die off from an oil spill, the ripple effect down the food chain can have an even greater impact. Oil spills tend to "slick" across the surface of the water. This can change the chemistry of the marine ecosystem if light cannot enter the water, or gases cannot exchange on the surface. While the US EPA and Coast Guard have established fantastic programs for responding to, and cleaning up the aftermath of an oil spill, in the long run prevention is the best solution.
Oil spills do not just effect the environment, but it can also affect our States economic markets. After the Athos I spill many beaches had to be closed, due to the toxic sludge washing up on shore. The loss of tourism can take years to recover from. In the immediate time after a spill any fishing industry will be hurt. If large numbers of fish die as a result from a spill, the effect on the fishing economy could be devastating. While oil refineries are an important part of the New Jersey economy, we need to work hard to prevent oil spills, in an effort to protect the environment and other commercial interests.
Senator Smith worked hard to pass Public Law 1990 chapter 78, which reformed the previous Oil Spill Prevention Act.