Pallone Leads Letter Urging Administration to Abandon Drilling Plans in Atlantic Ocean

Feb 12, 2016 Issues: Environment, New Jersey

Letter to Secretary Jewell Signed by 34 Members Representing 13 States

WASHINGTON, DCCongressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06) yesterday led a letter to Department of the Interior (DOI) Secretary Sally Jewell urging the agency to protect the Atlantic Ocean from exploitation by removing all Atlantic planning areas from the next iteration of the 2017-2022 Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program. The next iteration of the plan is expected to be released in the coming weeks.

“As the Deepwater Horizon spill clearly showed, oil spills do not respect state borders.  A spill anywhere in the Atlantic would cause environmental damage all along the coast,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter.  “We simply cannot risk the health and vitality of our coastal communities for the sake of expanding oil and gas development.”

In the letter, the lawmakers noted that coastal communities along the Atlantic coast rely on a clean, safe and ecologically vibrant environment to support their economies, where almost 1.4 million jobs are connected to fishing, tourism and recreation, leading to over $95 billion in gross domestic product.  According to 2010 census data, 39 percent of the U.S. population is concentrated in counties directly on the shoreline.

“It is extremely inspiring to have strong and bipartisan opposition by members of Congress to drilling in the Atlantic Ocean.  Secretary Jewell should heed their call to protect this essential marine ecosystem upon which coastal economies and millions of jobs depend.  Advancing policies to reduce the use of fossil fuel while at the same time promoting expansion of oil and gas drilling is hypocritical and puts the region at grave risk,” said Cindy Zipf, executive director of Clean Ocean Action.

Pallone has repeatedly expressed his opposition to offshore drilling and has decried the Administration’s most recent plan to open up the Atlantic Ocean to oil drilling.  Last year, he re-introduced the Clean Ocean and Safe Tourism (COAST) Anti-Drilling Act which would permanently ban oil and gas exploration, development, or production in the Atlantic Ocean. 

The Obama Administration has previously proposed opening the Atlantic to oil and gas exploration in 2010, but Pallone was ultimately successful in convincing the Administration to abandon those plans.

Full text of the letter follows and can also be found here:

 

February 11, 2016

 

Honorable Sally Jewell

Secretary

United States Department of the Interior

1849 C St. NW

Washington, DC 20240

 

Dear Secretary Jewell,

We write today regarding the 2017-2022 Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program.  In January 2015, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management released the Draft Proposed Program for the 2017-2022 Five-Year Program.  The Draft Proposed Program proposes opening areas in the Mid and South-Atlantic planning areas for oil and gas development, spanning from Virginia to Georgia.  As your Department prepares to release the Proposed Five-Year Program, we respectfully request that you remove the Atlantic planning areas from inclusion in the program.

In 2010, the Department of the Interior released a proposed 2012-2017 Five-Year Program that would have opened a broad swath of the Atlantic coast from Delaware to Florida for oil and gas development.  Tragically, just weeks after this proposal was released an explosion occurred on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig and the ensuing oil spill created a massive environmental disaster impacting the entire Gulf of Mexico region.  In the aftermath of this disaster, Congress created the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling.  Unfortunately, Congress has failed to enact virtually every reform recommended in the commission’s final report. 

Coastal communities along the Atlantic coast are all dependent upon a clean, safe and ecologically vibrant environment to support their economies.  Opening areas in the Mid and South-Atlantic to oil and gas development will put all of this at risk.  In Atlantic coast states, almost 1.4 million jobs are connected to fishing, tourism and recreation, leading to over $95 billion in gross domestic product.  According to 2010 census data, 39 percent of the U.S. population is concentrated in counties directly on the shoreline.  As the Deepwater Horizon spill clearly showed, oil spills do not respect state borders.  A spill anywhere in the Atlantic would cause environmental damage all along the coast.  We simply cannot risk the health and vitality of our coastal communities for the sake of expanding oil and gas development.

While we are steadfastly opposed to offshore drilling in the Atlantic Ocean, we are not opposed to harnessing energy from the ocean.  But this energy must come from renewable methods such as wind power, and not fossil fuels that will threaten the ecological vitality of the region.  The Atlantic Ocean has tremendous untapped potential for development of offshore wind energy production.  Your agency has taken positive steps by leasing federal waters for wind energy development in the Atlantic Ocean.  We encourage you to focus your agency’s efforts on development of this clean, renewable energy resource that will not have a damaging impact on the health of the Atlantic Ocean and the economies of coastal communities.

As the Department of the Interior finalizes the next iteration of the Five-Year Program for publication, we strongly urge you to remove the Mid- and South-Atlantic Planning Areas from inclusion in the proposal.  Thank you for your attention to this critical matter.

Sincerely,