New Jersey Congressional Delegation Asks Bush to Oppose Offshore Oil Exploration
Washington, D.C. --- As the U.S. Congress prepares to take up energy legislation in the coming months, 14 members of the New Jersey congressional delegation sent a letter today to President Bush asking that he oppose any offshore oil exploration off the coast of New Jersey. The bipartisan letter was prompted by reports that strong efforts will be made by U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM), chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and oil and natural gas interest groups to finally gain access to restricted supplies off the Jersey shore and in other sensitive areas.
U.S. Sens. Jon Corzine (D-NJ) and Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) initiated the letter that was also signed by U.S. Reps. Robert Andrews (D-NJ), Donald Payne (D-NJ), Christopher Smith (R-NJ), Steve Rothman (D-NJ), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), James Saxton (R-NJ), Rush Holt (D-NJ), Michael Ferguson (R-NJ), Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ) and Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ).
Since 1982, a moratorium has been in place for the outer continental shelf (OCS), which protects some of the nation's most sensitive coastal and marine resources off New Jersey, as well as the entire Atlantic Coast and Pacific Coast, the Eastern Gulf of Mexico and Alaska's Bristol Bay. In 1998, President Clinton extended the moratorium until 2012.
Despite Clinton's extension, the moratorium has been threatened several times over the last four years. First, in 2001 the U.S. Department of Interior announced plans to conduct a study on offshore oil and natural gas drilling off the coast of New Jersey, only to rescind it several days later. Then, in 2003, during final negotiations on an energy conference report, draft language was written by energy conferees that would have allowed the Secretary of Interior to conduct an inventory and analysis of oil and natural gas resources off the Jersey coast. The language was eventually taken out of the final energy conference report, which never passed both congressional chambers.
"Protecting these resources means a great deal to New Jersey's tourism economy, which is heavily dependent on the cleanliness of our beaches and ocean water," the 14 New Jersey lawmakers wrote in their letter to President Bush. "This sector of our economy alone supports nearly 500,000 jobs and indirectly generates $16.6 billion in wages and $5.5 billion in state tax revenue. The potential environmental and aesthetic risks posed by offshore oil and gas development could seriously imperil this vital economic engine.
"Moreover, there is no serious prize of petroleum resources that could be extracted from the continental shelf areas off the Jersey shore," the lawmakers continued. "Surveys that have been conducted show that the amount of oil and gas located there is certainly not sufficient to risk the potentially damaging effects that exploration and drilling could have on our oceans and coasts."
The New Jersey lawmakers pointed to a 2000 Minerals Management Service Assessment of Conventionally Recoverable Resources of the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic OCS that estimates a mean of only 196 million barrels of oil and 2.7 trillion cubic feet of natural gas for the entire Mid-Atlantic region. In comparison, areas of the Gulf of Mexico already open to drilling contain 18.9 billion barrels of oil and 258.3 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.