Editor Al Campbell -- Use This One

Editor Al Campbell.

While it might be inconvenient or objectionable there are two sides to every issue. In today's world, there are many who shut their minds to "the other side of the story." They have their ideas well cemented and another's ideas or opinions are not welcome or will not be countenanced.

Last week two such stories surfaced that brought to mind the importance of looking at both sides of an issue, disdainful as that opposing side may seem.

* Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law March 18 legislation that permits municipalities or counties to create stormwater utilities. The legislation, as reported here in February, was dubbed a "rain tax" by those who opposed it. That was because it will allow, not force, those governmental entities to create bodies that can tax impervious surfaces, residential or commercial, in order to fund stormwater sewers to safely dispose of water.

* An organized protest March 18 at the Cape May Convention Hall was held against seismic testing offshore for oil. The event was united in its opposition to the Trump administration permitting use of the sound testing for oil deposits on the offshore (outside New Jersey's limit) ocean floor. Speakers cited the potential harm to marine life and the impact on the local economy.

To speak against either subject may be deemed heresy to those who advocate for opposing positions. In defense of the First Amendment, let's look at opposite sides to both subjects.

Stormwater Utility:

Pro: Supporters of the legislation argued that the state has a major problem with pollution from stormwater runoff, a problem that endangers many of the state's waterways. The increase in severe rain events associated with climate change exacerbates the problem, according to them, according to Vince Conti's Feb. 20 story.

Clean Water Action's State Director, Amy Goldsmith, released the following:

 "Clean Water Action is pleased to see that Gov. Murphy signed the stormwater utility bill (S.1073) which enables municipalities and counties to create mechanisms to address non-point source pollution more effectively, helping reduce flooding and pollution in the Garden State.

"If New Jersey is going to provide maximum protection to our water resources through the state, then the Murphy administration needs to take swift action to reverse the full suite of Christie’s water rule rollbacks including flood hazard and wetlands rules, enforce existing Category 1 (C1) safeguards per the federal Clean Water Act, as well as adopt the recently proposed C1 designations."

Con: The New Jersey Business and Industry Association Vice President of Government Affairs Ray Cantor:

"The new law allows municipalities and counties to create authorities to impose fees on residential and commercial property owners based on the amount of their impervious surfaces.

"This law adds yet another tax on our already overburdened residents and businesses, though there is no language to define how much people will be charged, how the funds will be collected or how the funds generated by it will actually address stormwater issues.

"This legislation essentially creates a new, non-deductible property tax on the public and another bureaucratic expense at the local level. Churches and non-profits, as well as residents and businesses, will all be susceptible to these added fees based on their patios, parking lots, driveways and roofs."

In light of the foregoing, do we pray for rain or dry weather?

Seismic Testing:

A portion of Bill Barlow's account in the March 20 edition of the protest in Cape May on seismic testing:

Con: (U.S. Rep. Jeff) Van Drew (D-2nd) pointed to efforts in Trenton to require New Jersey’s approval for any offshore facilities. He also announced a plan for legislation in the House of Representatives to ban drilling on the East and West coasts.

He described seismic testing as extremely damaging to wildlife.

“It’s about time we take a stand. And if you want to talk the talk you’ve got to walk the walk and we are doing our darned best to walk the walk and really stand up and do what’s right here,” he said.

Cape May County Freeholder Director Gerald Thornton said the county has opposed offshore drilling for decades. He described commercial and sports fishing as major industries, bringing in millions of dollars and thousands of jobs.

Jeff Stewart, a captain on the Cape May Whale Watcher, said seismic testing would drive marine mammals and fish from the coastline. Marine mammals are extraordinarily sensitive to sound, using it to communicate and in some cases find their way. He and others said the seismic testing amounts to an incredible blast of noise through the underwater quiet.

“It’s torture for marine mammals. It’s torture for the fish. It’s bad for all of us,” he said. “Let’s beat this.”

Pro: The American Petroleum Institute on seismic testing:

After examining decades of scientific research and real-world experience, federal regulators determined that seismic surveys in the Atlantic OCS will have no measurable impact on fish or marine mammal populations.

In the words of the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), “there has been no documented scientific evidence of noise from air guns used in geological and geophysical (G&G) seismic activities adversely affecting marine animal populations or coastal communities.”

According to BOEM, seismic surveys in the Atlantic OCS “should not cause any deaths or injuries to the hearing of marine mammal[s] or sea turtles.”

Dr. William Brown, chief environmental officer for BOEM, told National Geographic that claims to the contrary are “wildly exaggerated and not supported by the evidence.”

Despite the already negligible risks, the industry follows standard operating procedures known as “mitigation measures” to provide even more protection for marine life.

Trained protected species observers (PSOs) are onboard to watch for animals. Operations stop if certain marine animals enter an “exclusion zone” established around the operation and are not restarted until the zone is all-clear for at least 30 minutes.

When starting a seismic survey, operators use a ramp-up procedure that gradually increases the sound level being produced, allowing animals to leave the area if the sound level becomes uncomfortable. 

In a free society we can elect to choose on which side of an issue we stand. To take an opposing view should not make another person one's enemy.