State Lawmakers Denounce Feds’ Plan to Allow Oil Drilling Off Jersey Shore

Jan 10, 2018

New Jersey legislators are firing back at the Trump administration’s intention to reverse Obama-era protections and drill for oil in the Atlantic Ocean. U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, Governor-elect Phil Murphy and Congressman Frank Pallone Jr. (N.J.-6th) were joined for a recent press conference in Long Branch by environmental advocates from Clean Ocean Action, the Sierra Club, Environment NJ and Clean Water Action. In addition, Menendez and Pallone, along with Sen. Cory Booker, sent a letter urging Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to reject the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s plan to open the Atlantic to oil and gas exploration.

The administration announced last week the largest planned expansion of offshore drilling in decades in the Atlantic, Arctic and Pacific oceans and the Gulf of Mexico, including in previously blocked area off the Jersey Shore and from Florida to Maine.

“The decision to open up the Atlantic to drilling is proof that this administration does not care about coastal communities or their economies,” stated Pallone. “This is all part of an anti-environmental agenda that could have catastrophic consequences for our environmental and economic health. The fishing, boating and recreational industries would be debilitated by any oil spill along the Atlantic. Our coastal communities have made it absolutely clear that they do not want drilling in the Atlantic.”

Murphy said the intent to drill “runs counter to our values and it endangers our most precious natural resource. What we need to do is support our shore and the millions of people – from everyday New Jerseyans to those who come from around the world – who love our beaches. We need to support the billions of dollars in economic activity, the tens of thousands of jobs and the thousands of businesses that rely upon a safe and clean shoreline.

“We must stand firm against any plan for fossil fuel exploration, drilling or development off the Atlantic coast – whether it be 3 miles, 30 miles or 300 miles from New Jersey.”

The Jersey Shore is home to nearly $800 billion in coastal properties and a tourism industry that generates $44 billion a year and supports more than half a million direct and indirect jobs, or nearly 10 percent of the state’s entire workforce. The state’s commercial fishing industry, meanwhile, generates more than $7.9 billion annually and supports 50,000 jobs.

“A pristine and thriving Jersey Shore is our birthright, and we must do everything we can to protect it from a Trump offshore drilling plan that defies common sense, disregards the concerns of our shore communities and imperils the homes and livelihoods of everyone who depends on our coastline,” Menendez remarked. “What’s happening here is a dream scenario for Big Oil – but a nightmare for our shore communities. It’s a gift to corporate polluters at the expense of our coastal economies.”

In the letter to Zinke, the lawmakers said the “proposal shows a complete disregard for New Jersey’s economy, environment and quality of life, and should be immediately rejected.”

The legislators also expressed concern related to the Trump administration’s efforts to roll back established offshore drilling safety standards, in place since the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon disaster.

“Our oceans are priceless natural resources that should be preserved for future generations, not monetized and auctioned off for the benefit of a few,” the letter stated. “Gambling with New Jersey’s economy is a needless risk whose only beneficiaries are big oil companies. Fueled by billions of dollars of tax subsidies, these companies are already making annual profits the likes of which the people on the Jersey Shore won’t see in a lifetime. Mortgaging our state’s economic future in order to further pad these companies’ bottom lines is unconscionable.”

— Juliet Kaszas-Hoch

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