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Move to allow oil drilling off the Jersey Shore would stop under Biden climate change plan

February 2, 2021
In The News

Oil rigs off the Jersey Shore became increasingly unlikely Wednesday when President Joe Biden announced a pause in new oil and gas drilling as part of his efforts to combat climate change.

Biden’s executive orders, signed Wednesday, will block for now former President Donald Trump’s effort to open most of the Atlantic Coast to oil drilling. That was a reversal of President Barack Obama’s decision to keep the Atlantic Coast off limits through at least 2022.

“We’ve gone for a 180 degree turn on almost every environmental policy,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, an environmental organization. “The biggest difference is Trump wanted oil wells off our coast and Biden wants windmills. We’ll be looking at green jobs in wind instead of the worrying about oil spills ruining our tourist economy.”

The president promised to take action against climate change, and under his executive orders, the federal government would not sign new oil and natural gas leases on public lands or offshore “to the extent possible,” and review all existing policies regarding leasing and granting permits for developing fossil fuels on public lands and offshore.

“More drilling means more climate pollution that we simply cannot afford,” said Diane Hoskins, campaign director for the environmental group Oceana. “Climate change is already wreaking havoc on our lives and livelihoods and it’s a relief to see President Biden putting solutions to the climate crisis first.”

Rather than expand oil and gas production, Biden said he would move to double energy production from offshore wind by 2030. In New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy has said he would try to produce 7,500 megawatts of electricity from offshore wind by 2035.

Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, called Biden’s actions “a step in the right direction to permanently banning offshore drilling along the Atlantic Coast.”

Offshore drilling could threaten a tourism industry generating $43 billion annually and supporting 500,000 jobs in the state, and a fishing industry adding $7.9 billion a year to New Jersey’s economy and creating more than 50,000 jobs.

The House in 2019 voted to ban new leases in the Atlantic Ocean but the Senate never took up the bill.

“An oil spill would threaten the ecosystem and economic vitality of the Jersey shoreline and communities along the Atlantic Coast,” said Pallone, D-6th Dist. “There’s simply no reason why we can’t codify a permanent offshore drilling ban as we transition our country to a clean, low-carbon future.