Senators Call for Public Comment Period Extension on Feds’ Offshore Drilling Plan

Mar 14, 2018

U.S. Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker deem the Interior Department’s public engagement on the federal offshore drilling plan “inadequate,” and are calling for a 60-day extension of the comment period, as well as a public meeting on the Jersey Shore.

The two New Jersey legislators have condemned the Trump administration’s plan to open the Atlantic Ocean to oil and gas exploration, which, they say, threatens the health of Jersey Shore beaches and its economy.

Recently, the lawmakers joined a group of 22 senators requesting Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke allow additional comments on the Draft Proposed Program for the Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2019-2024 and on scoping for the required Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement. The original public comment period ended March 9.

“We believe a 60-day extension of the deadline for comments is necessary to allow for more public hearings in coastal areas and to give the public sufficient time to submit comments on offshore drilling proposed for nearly the entire U.S. Outer Continental Shelf, encompassing over 90 percent of total OCS acreage – the largest number of potential offshore lease sales ever proposed,” the senators wrote in a letter to Zinke.

The letter also requests additional meetings in rural and coastal communities in each affected state and the opportunity for the public to offer formal oral testimony at these meetings.

“These public hearings are a critical opportunity for citizens to learn about and comment on the Department of the Interior’s five-year plan, and due to the geographic extent of the proposed leasing program, it is imperative to provide adequate access for each region,” said the senators.

Menendez and Booker helped rally state residents outside the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s Feb. 14 open house in Hamilton, echoing the public outcry over the decision to hold the information session far from the Jersey Shore, and on both Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday.

Menendez noted, “New Jersey’s coastal communities rely on a bustling tourism industry, which generates over $44 billion in economic activity and supports over 500,000 jobs – nearly 10 percent of the state’s workforce. New Jersey also has a prosperous commercial fishing industry, which generates over $7.9 billion annually, and the state boasts one of the largest saltwater recreational fishing industries in the nation. The state’s commercial and recreational fishing industries support nearly 50,000 jobs.”

Legislators from Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Delaware, New York, Maine, Vermont, Maryland, California, Washington, Oregon and Hawaii signed the letter to Zinke along with Menenedez and Booker.

Menendez pointed out that Zinke decided the offshore drilling plan would no longer include Florida after he personally met with Gov. Rick Scott.  —J.K.-H.

Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.