Pallone: Final Energy Conference Report Excludes Plan to Inventory Oil And Gas Reserves Off Jersey Shore

Nov 17, 2003

Washington, D.C. --- U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, announced today that an energy conference agreement does not include controversial language allowing for the inventory of oil and gas reserves off the Jersey shore and other shores around the nation. The New Jersey congressman also announced his opposition to a final energy conference report that reconciles different energy bills passed earlier this year in the House and Senate. The House is expected to vote on the final conference report later this week.

"The congressional Republican leadership finally realized it didnt have the votes to reverse coastal protection in place for more than a decade," Pallone said. "The final conference report will not threaten the Jersey shore with oil and gas exploration."

Last September, House and Senate conferees added language that would allow the inventory of sensitive coastal and marine areas within the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) and other coastal areas for oil and gas resources despite the fact a moratorium has been in place since 1988 prohibiting any oil drilling within the OCS. Pallone led the fight amongst the New Jersey congressional delegation to ensure the language was not included in the final conference agreement. Pallone was joined by 11 of his New Jersey colleagues in a bipartisan letter to conferees voicing their opposition to this provision and several other provisions that would be harmful to ocean and coastal environments.

However, the final conference report includes controversial language Pallone and his colleagues also opposed weakening the Coastal Zone Management Acts (CZMA) consistency provision to remove states rights and weaken environmental protections. The provision cuts down on the amount of time that states, agencies and the public have to study matters concerning drilling and other exploratory activity off the coasts in areas where these activities already take place.

Republican conferees also added a new provision at the eleventh hour that would require the Interior Department to issue a report to Congress recommending ways to prevent future natural gas supply shortages, which includes the identification of estimated natural gas supplies that are not available now under existing federal policies. Pallone said this language could open up sensitive lands to the oil industry.

"The final conference report does nothing to cut our long-term dependence on foreign oil and does very little to encourage the development of valuable renewable resources," Pallone continued. "Rather than truly addressing our nations energy needs, this final agreement is nothing more than a huge tax break for friends of the Bush administration in the oil and gas business, costing the American taxpayers nearly $120 billion over the next decade."

The Outer Continental Shelf includes the seaward boundary between the States of Connecticut and Rhode Island and the seaward boundary between the States of North Carolina and South Carolina. For the past 20 years, Congress and the White House have worked together to block exploration of about 610 million acres along both Atlantic and Pacific coasts, and the eastern part of the Gulf of Mexico.