Pallone, LoBiondo lead 66 House Members in Opposing Offshore Drilling in the Atlantic and Eastern Gulf of Mexico

Aug 11, 2017 Issues: Energy and Gas Prices, Environment

Washington, D.C. – Congressmen Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06) and Frank A. LoBiondo (NJ-02) led a bipartisan group of 66 members of the House of Representatives in sending a letter to Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, opposing any effort to allow oil and gas leasing in the Atlantic Ocean and Eastern Gulf of Mexico. This letter was sent in response to a July 3rd Request for Information on the preparation of a new five-year National Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2019-2022. The members cited the economic, ecological, and national security risks of allowing offshore drilling in the Atlantic and Eastern Gulf. Congressmen Gerald E. Connolly (VA-11), Mark Sanford (SC-01), and David Price (NC-04) were co-leaders on the letter.

 

Rep. Pallone has been a longtime leader in the fight to protect the Atlantic coast, sponsoring legislation to prevent offshore drilling.  Pallone wrote to the Secretary of the Interior in 2010 voicing strong opposition to a plan to enable drilling in the Atlantic.  He did this even before the Deepwater Horizon disaster brought offshore drilling to the forefront of the news.

Pallone was a leader in the fight to remove a dangerous provision from the Obama Administration’s 2017-2022 Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program that would have authorized new offshore oil and gas leasing along the southern Atlantic coast.  And in December, after Pallone led a letter signed by 73 of his colleagues urging a permanent ban to coastal drilling along the Artic and Atlantic coasts, President Obama exercised his authority to do just that – permanently banning offshore drilling in deep water canyons from Virginia to New England, including off the New Jersey coast, and in much of the Arctic Ocean.

Members of the New Jersey delegation who signed include:

Donald Norcross (NJ-01), Bill Pascrell, Jr. (NJ-09), Albio Sires (NJ-08), Donald M. Payne, Jr. (NJ-10), Josh Gottheimer (NJ-05), Bonnie Watson Coleman(NJ-12), and Leonard Lance(NJ-07).

Other signers of the letter include:

Nydia M. Velázquez (NY-07), John Sarbanes (MD-03), Niki Tsongas (MA-03), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23), Donald S. Beyer Jr. (VA-08), Henry C. "Hank" Johnson (GA-04), Charlie Crist (FL-13), Bobby L. Rush (IL-01), Raúl M. Grijalva (AZ-03), Joseph Crowley (NY-14), William R. Keating (MA-09), Walter B. Jones (NC-03), Keith Ellison (MN-05), Thomas Suozzi (NY-03), James R. Langevin (RI-02), José E. Serrano (NY-15), James P. McGovern (MA-02), Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (VA-03), John Yarmuth (KY-03), Jerry McNerney (CA-09), Chellie Pingree (ME-01), Emanuel Cleaver, II (MO-05), Jared Huffman (CA-02), Paul Tonko (NY-20), Betty McCollum (MN-04),  Alan Lowenthal (CA-47), Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01), A. Donald McEachin (VA-04), Dwight Evans (PA-02), Jared Polis (CO-02), G.K. Butterfield (NC-01), Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), Brendan F. Boyle (PA-13), Alma Adams (NC-12), Zoe Lofgren (CA-19), Peter Welch (VT-At Large), Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Ted Deutch (FL-22), Steve Cohen (TN-09), Salud O. Carbajal (CA-24), Matthew A. Cartwright (PA-17), Frederica A. Wilson (FL-24), Ann McLane Kuster (NH-02), Darren Soto (FL-09), John Rutherford (FL-04), Jamie Raskin (MD-08), Grace Meng (NY-06), Kathy Castor (FL-14), Stephen F. Lynch (MA-08), Nanette Barragán (CA-44), Ro Khanna (CA-17), Jerrold Nadler (NY-10), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL-27), Peter DeFazio(OR-04), and Michael E. Capuano(MA-07).

August 11, 2017

 

Secretary Ryan Zinke

Department of the Interior

1849 C St NW

Washington, D.C. 20240

 

Dear Secretary Zinke,

 

We are writing to express our strong opposition to oil and gas leasing in the Atlantic Ocean and Eastern Gulf of Mexico. We are responding to the July 3rd Request for Information on the preparation of a new five-year National Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2019-2022.

 

The vitality of our coastal economies is inextricably tied to healthy ocean ecosystems. We are unwilling to accept the tremendous risks, which vastly outweigh the potential gains of oil and gas drilling and development in the Atlantic and Eastern Gulf of Mexico. Currently, healthy ocean ecosystems along the East Coast support more than $95 billion in gross domestic product and nearly 1.4 million jobs annually through fishing, recreation and tourism.

 

We hear from countless business owners, elected officials and residents along our coasts who recognize and reject the risks of offshore oil and gas development. More than 120 local governments have passed formal resolutions opposing oil and gas exploration and/or drilling in the Atlantic or Eastern Gulf, as do numerous local chambers of commerce, tourism and restaurant associations, commercial and recreational fishing associations, and the New England, Mid-Atlantic, and South Atlantic Fishery Management Councils. More than 41,000 businesses and 500,000 commercial fishing families have joined together to strongly oppose offshore oil and gas exploration and drilling. Further, the Department of Defense, the Air Force, NASA, and the Florida Defense Support Task Force have also expressed concerns that offshore oil and gas development would threat their ability to perform critical activities.

 

Expanding offshore drilling into the Atlantic and the Eastern Gulf of Mexico would significantly risk our military readiness and national security. Operations such as Strike Group transit and training, tactical training, drone launch/recovery hazard areas, Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR), Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) live fire, anti-submarine warfare exercises, live air-to-surface ordinance operations, and more have resulted in the Department of Defense restricting 123,803 square nautical miles of Atlantic OCS from oil and gas activity.[1] The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) asserts that the presence of temporary or fixed structures at or below the sea surface would have significant detrimental effects on their ability to conduct aerospace test activities. In fact, even the temporary presence of support ships or aircraft can result in mandatory range safety criteria not being met, leading to missed launch opportunities such as resupply missions to the International Space Station.[2]

 

The Department of Defense’s activities are also pervasive in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico. According to the USAF Chief of Staff, “the moratorium is essential for developing and sustaining the Air Force’s future combat capabilities.”[3] The Florida Defense Support Task Force states that "drilling east of the Military Mission Line (MML) would mean loss of ranges and possible relocation of aircraft/bases to other unrestricted range areas."[4] Defense is Florida’s fourth largest industry, and in northwest Florida, 65% of the regional economy is “considerably dependent on unconstrained access to the eastern Gulf of Mexico airspace and sea space.”[5]

 

Opening the Atlantic to offshore oil and gas drilling and development jeopardizes our coastal businesses, fishing communities, tourism industry, and our national security. Exploration activities harm our coastal economies in the near term and open the door to even greater risks from offshore oil and gas production down the road. Therefore, we urge you not to include the Atlantic Ocean or the Eastern Gulf of Mexico in the National OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2019-2024.

 

Sincerely,

 


 

1 https://www.boem.gov/2017-2022-DoD-OCS-Report/

2https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/pilotonline.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/4/e0/4e0dd62d-0729-56d3-a75b-18887cc58dc4/56cf3586d6cef.pdf.pdf

3https://www.billnelson.senate.gov/sites/default/files/06.27.17%20CSAF%20Letter%20to%20Sen%20Nelson%20Re%20Moratorium%20on%20Leasing%20Land.pdf

4 https://www.enterpriseflorida.com/wp-content/uploads/FDSTF-White-Paper-Oil-Drilling-and-Military-Mission-Compatability.pdf

5 Ibid.