WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker (both D-NJ) and Congressman Frank Pallone (NJ-06) today cheered the removal of the Atlantic Ocean from the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Oil and Gas Leasing Program (Five Year Program) for 2017-2022 by the Department of the Interior, protecting the Jersey Shore from the threat of a massive spill that could cripple the coastal environment and economy.
Prior to today’s announcement, the Five Year Program – which was announced in January 2015 – allowed for oil and gas exploration in a portion of the Mid- and South Atlantic planning areas, off the coasts of Virginia, North and South Carolina, and Georgia.
“Today's announcement is a victory for our economy, our environment and the overall well-being of our shore communities,” said Sen. Menendez. “I’m pleased the Administration heard our voices and put the values of New Jerseyans ahead of the financial interests of the oil industry. Standing together, we proved we can beat Big Oil and protect our Jersey Shore for generations to come.”
“Today marks a huge win for our environment, our economy and most importantly the people of New Jersey,” said Sen. Booker. “I've been proud to stand with my colleagues and fellow stakeholders in opposing offshore drilling in the Atlantic ever since it was first included in this proposal. We fought hard to protect the Jersey Shore from the potential devastating effects of a catastrophic oil spill and New Jerseyans’ voices were heard loud and clear – this is our shoreline and we stand united in protecting it from any and all threats.”
“I’m pleased the Interior Department abandoned its shortsighted drilling proposal that threatened the ecology and economy of the Atlantic coast, including our New Jersey coastline,” Sen. Pallone said. “Today’s result would not have been possible without lawmakers and concerned residents standing united in opposition to this proposal. We need to continue to reject efforts to drill along our coastline, and to transition to cleaner and more efficient energy sources along our coast.”
The Obama Administration had previously proposed opening the Atlantic to oil and gas exploration in 2010, but Sen. Menendez, Rep. Pallone and the late-Sen. Frank Lautenberg were successful in convincing the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) to abandon those plans.
In January 2016, Sens. Menendez and Booker and Rep. Pallone were joined by over 100 local leaders, environmental and tourism groups, Jersey Shore business owners and residents at a rally on the Asbury Park boardwalk to demand action to guard the Atlantic against offshore oil and gas exploration. The federal lawmakers cited the massive 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that caused long-term marine and coastal damage in several Gulf States and said a similar incident in the Mid-Atlantic would still threaten New Jersey’s coastline.
Just yesterday the Pentagon said Atlantic offshore drilling could hurt military maneuvers and interfere with missile tests the Navy relies on to protect the East Coast, according to The Washington Post, prompting Sens. Menendez, Booker and Rep. Pallone to urge the Administration to heed the warnings of the Defense Department.
In addition to possible military readiness threats up and down the coast, also at risk are New Jersey’s over $700 billion in coastal properties and a tourism industry that generates $38 billion a year and directly supports almost half a million direct and indirect jobs, or nearly ten percent of the state’s entire workforce. New Jersey’s vibrant commercial fishing industry generates over $7.9 billion annually and supports over 50,000 jobs. The state also has one of the largest saltwater recreational fishing industries in the nation.
Sen. Menendez and Rep. Pallone wrote the Clean Ocean and Safe Tourism (COAST) Anti-Drilling Act, co-sponsored by Sen. Booker, which would ban oil and gas exploration, development, or production in the Atlantic Ocean. Sens. Menendez and Booker also joined several other East Coast Senators last month in introducing the “Kill the Drill: Anti-Atlantic Offshore Drilling” amendment to the Energy Policy Modernization Act in the Senate, which mirrors the COAST Act.
Sens. Menendez and Booker and Rep. Pallone have kept the pressure on the Obama Administration since it first proposed to include the Mid- and South Atlantic in its latest five-year energy plan. In June 2014, Menendez and Pallone stood on the Asbury Park boardwalk to warn the community of the negative economic and environmental impacts of offshore drilling in the Atlantic to the Jersey Shore.