Pallone Decries Proposal to Open Up Atlantic to Offshore Oil and Gas Drilling

Mar 18, 2015 Issues: Environment, New Jersey

ATLANTIC CITY, NJ – Today, Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-6) expressed his opposition to a proposal by the Obama Administration to open parts of the Atlantic Ocean to offshore oil and gas drilling.   The meeting was held by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) in Atlantic City, NJ before the Administration moves forward with a 5-year offshore leasing plan which includes opening parts of the Atlantic Ocean to offshore oil and gas drilling. 

BOEM agreed to hold the meeting after Congressman Pallone, along with Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker (both D-NJ), sent a letter expressing their deep concern with any drilling in the Atlantic and asking for a public comment meeting on the proposal to be held in the state of New Jersey.

“Drilling off the Atlantic Coast is the wrong approach that puts our New Jersey beaches at risk,” said Congressman Pallone.  “We’ve seen that oil spills don’t respect state borders.  An oil spill anywhere along the Atlantic Coast would cause severe environmental damage to fisheries, popular beaches and wildlife.  The fact remains that opening up the Atlantic Ocean for fossil fuel development is unnecessary, poses a serious threat to our coastal communities, and is the wrong approach.”  

Anyone unable to attend the meeting can also submit comments through www.boemoceaninfo.com (connects to Regulations.gov).  The deadline for providing comments is March 30, 2015.

The full text of Congressman Pallone’s statement is below:

 

Statement of Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr.

Atlantic Offshore Drilling Scoping Meeting

March 18, 2015

“I apologize I could not be there in person with all of you this afternoon, but I am in Washington, DC because Congress is in session this week.  I join with those of you who are here in opposition today to stand up against drilling off the Atlantic Coast.

For over twenty years I have worked to stop ocean dumping, to keep our beaches and sensitive coastal areas clean, and to stop the industrialization of our coast.  We all know how important New Jersey's beaches are, not only to residents of our state, but also for countless visitors. 

The Department of Interior announced earlier this year that they are including areas off the coast of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia in their new draft offshore drilling plan.  Well my message to the Interior Department is that drilling off the Atlantic Coast is unacceptable and should not be included in this 5-Year Plan.

Our beaches are a tremendous resource for those who come here to enjoy them, and they are a huge economic engine for our state.  They're the primary driver of a tourism economy that supports 312,000 jobs in New Jersey and generates $38 billion in economic activities for the state each year.  They are also nature’s safeguard from severe weather and important natural habitats.

With the Jersey Shore still recovering from Superstorm Sandy, we cannot risk another blow to our coast from an oil spill off our coast.  Last summer New Jersey had a strong beach season, with locals and tourists alike showing their Jersey pride by patronizing local businesses and enjoying our replenished beaches.  Just imagine what a blow it would be to that recovery if a spill were to occur. 

That’s why I believe drilling off the Atlantic Coast is the wrong approach that puts New Jersey beaches at risk.  An oil spill anywhere along the Atlantic Coast would cause severe environmental damage to fisheries, popular beaches and wildlife.  As the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill showed, oil spills don’t respect state borders.

When the Department of Interior announced its plan I sent a letter to President Obama, along with Senators Menendez and Booker, expressing our opposition to the inclusion of the Atlantic in the 5-Year Plan.  We learned a tough lesson from the Deepwater Horizon tragedy, and that is offshore drilling poses a substantial risk of economic and environmental devastation for our shoreline communities.  We must reflect on the mistakes that have been made in the past and learn from them to protect our coastal communities.

In 2009 prior to the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, President Obama released a 5-year offshore drilling proposal that included drilling off the coast of the Atlantic from Delaware to Florida.  I fought this 5-year plan by working with many of my colleagues to write to the President to oppose the inclusion of the Atlantic in the plan. 

We were successful, and the President completely removed the Atlantic Coast from the plan.  But we must ensure that the Atlantic Coast remains protected in the 2017-2022 plan.  The fact is that domestic oil production is at a 25-year high, net imports are at a 29-year low, and BP said the U.S. in 2013 experienced “one of the biggest oil production increases the world has ever seen.”  And this year, oil prices fell to their lowest level in more than five years and we have seen gasoline prices in some areas of the U.S. below 2 dollars per gallon. 

We shouldn't jeopardize the environment or the regional economy for the sake of more oil.  We need an energy policy that is far-sighted, that is safe for the environment and good for the economy. 

I am not opposed to harnessing energy from the Atlantic OCS; however, any energy development in the Atlantic should be from renewable sources, such as wind power, and not polluting fossil fuels.  The Obama Administration is prioritizing offshore wind energy development in areas off the Atlantic coast, including New Jersey. Wind power is exactly the type of clean energy America should be investing in—the type that will reduce our dependence on foreign oil and gas and create jobs. 

The fact remains that opening up the Atlantic coast for fossil fuel development is unnecessary, poses a serious threat to our coastal communities, and is the wrong approach.  We can't drill our way to solving our energy problems.  We need to get out of that mindset and focus on investments in more sustainable energy solutions.  Thank you.”