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Menendez, Murphy, Pallone Denounce Trump Plan to Allow Oil Drilling Off Jersey Shore

January 5, 2018
Press Release

LONG BRANCH, N.J. – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, Governor-elect Phil Murphy and Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (N.J.-06) today fired back at the Trump Administration’s plan to allow oil drilling off the Jersey Shore.  The three were joined by incoming first lady Tammy Murphy and leading environmental advocates from Clean Ocean Action, Environment NJ, Sierra Club and Clean Water Action at a news conference at McLoone’s Pier House, a local business on the Long Branch boardwalk that would be impacted if an oil spill in the Atlantic should reach the Jersey Shore.

In addition, Sen. Menendez and Rep. Pallone, along with Sen. Cory Booker, sent a letter today urging Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to reject the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) plan to open the Atlantic Ocean to oil and gas exploration, which threatens the health of Jersey Shore beaches and its thriving economy.

“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,” said Sen. Menendez.  “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.  We’ve been through this fight before—and we’ve won.  It’s a fight worth having, and I’m going to do everything I can in Congress to put a stop to it.”

“This is a huge giveaway to big oil and gas companies,” Gov.-elect Murphy said.  “It 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 three miles, 30 miles, or 300 miles from New Jersey.”

“The Trump Administration has proven they are willing to put oil company profits ahead of the safety of our coastal communities,” said Sen. Booker, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.  “We know full well the potentially devastating impact drilling in the Atlantic could have on the Jersey Shore and the entire East Coast.  An oil spill would not only be an environmental disaster for our beaches, fisheries and marine life, but the economic consequences would ripple across the region with lost jobs and shuttered businesses.  I have long stood with New Jerseyans and our delegation in protecting our Jersey Shore, and will continue to do so in the face of potentially irreparable harm.”

"The decision to open up the Atlantic to drilling is proof that this Administration does not care about coastal communities or their economies,” said Rep. 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.  I will do whatever is necessary to fight the Trump administration and prevent drilling in the Atlantic.”

The Jersey Shore is home to nearly $800 billion in coastal properties and a tourism industry that generates $44 billion a year and supports over 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 has one of the largest saltwater recreational fishing industries in the nation.  All of these are threatened by offshore drilling.

The Trump Administration announced yesterday the largest planned expansion of offshore drilling in decades in the Atlantic, Arctic and Pacific Oceans and the Gulf of Mexico, including in areas previously blocked off the Jersey Shore and throughout the Atlantic from Florida to Maine.

“This proposal shows a complete disregard for New Jersey’s economy, environment, and quality of life, and should be immediately rejected,” the lawmakers wrote to Secretary Zinke.  “Opening up hundreds of miles of coastline to offshore drilling while eliminating even minimal safety precautions means that another oil spill is not a possibility—it is a certainty.  While loosely-regulated oil rigs up and down the coast may be a dream come true for Big Oil, it’s a nightmare scenario for our shore communities.”

The federal lawmakers expressed added concern given Trump Administration efforts to roll back established offshore drilling safety standards put in place after the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon disaster, including the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement’s well control rule, which updated requirements for offshore drilling equipment in an attempt to prevent another catastrophic oil spill.

The economic and environmental devastation caused by the Deepwater Horizon tragedy far exceeded what many believed would be the worst-case scenario for an offshore oil accident.  More than seven years later, the Gulf Coast still hasn’t fully recovered from its catastrophic impact.  At a time when New Jerseyans are continuing to rebuild their lives after Superstorm Sandy, the last thing they need is the prospect of a manmade disaster from an oil spill.

“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 continued.  “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.”

Sens. Menendez and Booker and Rep. Pallone led the charge in 2015 to remove the Atlantic Ocean from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management's 2017-2022 Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Draft Proposed Program (Five-Year Plan).

The New Jersey lawmakers also successfully convinced President Obama before leaving office to permanently ban oil and gas exploration in areas of the Atlantic Ocean by exercising the authority granted to him by Congress under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA).

In May, Sens. Menendez and Booker and Rep. Pallone reintroduced their Clean Ocean and Safe Tourism (COAST) Anti-Drilling Act that prohibits the U.S. Department of Interior from issuing leases for the exploration, development, or production of oil or gas in the North, Mid-, or South Atlantic Ocean or the Straits of Florida.

The full text of the New Jersey delegation letter follows and can be downloaded here.

January 5, 2018

The Honorable Ryan Zinke

Secretary
United States Department of the Interior

1849 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20240

We write in strong opposition to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s Draft Proposed Program for a 2019-2024 Outer Continental Shelf Leasing Program, which threatens to open up the entirety of the Atlantic Ocean to offshore oil and gas drilling.  This proposal shows a complete disregard for New Jersey’s economy, environment, and quality of life, and should be immediately rejected.

Five years after the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, New Jerseyans continue to work every day to rebuild our neighborhoods, our economy, and our way of life.  Central to that effort are our thriving shore communities—from the nearly 10 percent of our state’s workforce employed due to the tourism sector, to the 50,000 men and women who work in the state’s seafood industry, to the home- and business-owners who have built their lives and their livelihoods along the water.  An unspoiled coastline is vital to what makes New Jersey a great place to live, work, and visit.

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.

The proposal is made even more troubling when viewed through the wider lens of the Administration’s effort to roll back established offshore drilling safety standards. After the BP disaster, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement promulgated its well control rule, which updated requirements for offshore drilling equipment in an attempt to prevent another catastrophic oil spill.  As part of Executive Order number 13795, President Trump called for these common sense safeguards to be revisited.  The White House’s attempts to undermine even the modest safety protections established after the Deepwater Horizon tragedy show a willful refusal to learn from the mistakes of the past, and a complete disregard for the future of our coastal economies. 

Opening up hundreds of miles of coastline to offshore drilling while eliminating even minimal safety precautions means that another oil spill is not a possibility—it is a certainty.  While loosely-regulated oil rigs up and down the coast may be a dream come true for Big Oil, it’s a nightmare scenario for our shore communities.

In questions for the record submitted to the Senate prior to your confirmation as Secretary, you stated that one of your highest priorities would be “Restoring trust by working with rather than against local communities and states” and that you commit “to working closely with Congress, the States, local governments and stakeholders to develop a comprehensive policy towards OCS leasing.”  We urge you to keep your promise, and listen to the voices of New Jerseyans and people up and down the Atlantic Coast who are asking you to reject oil and gas drilling along our shores.

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 Draft Proposed Program for the 2019-2024 Outer Continental Shelf Leasing Program is antithetical to this principle, and should be immediately rejected. 

Sincerely,

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