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Pallone, Menendez Send Letter Imploring Admin to #KillTheDrill Off the Atlantic to Prevent More Big Oil Handouts, Protect Coastline Communities

February 1, 2016
Press Release

“Drilling in the Atlantic is a risk-reward proposition—all of the risk is put on the backs of our shore communities, and all of the reward goes to Big Oil”

NEWARK, N.J. – In expectation of new pressure on the Administration to open protected waters to offshore drilling following the recent repeal of the crude oil export ban, Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06) and U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) today sent a letter requesting the Administration 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. That plan is expected to be released within the next two months.

“Turning our coastal waters into an oilfield would be another in a long line of giveaways for an industry that does not need or deserve it,” Sen. Menendez and Rep. Pallone wrote. “One immediate step your Administration can take to counteract this new giveaway to Big Oil is to place the whole of the Atlantic Ocean off-limits for drilling.”

They added:  “Drilling in the Atlantic is a risk-reward proposition—all of the risk is put on the backs of our shore communities, and all of the reward goes to Big Oil.”

The Jersey Shore is home to over $700 billion in coastal properties and a tourism industry that generates $38 billion a year and directly supports almost half a million direct and indirect jobs, or nearly ten percent of the state’s entire workforce. New Jersey’s vibrant commercial fishing industry generates over $7.9 billion annually and supports over 50,000 jobs. The state also has one of the largest saltwater recreational fishing industries in the nation.

Sen. Menendez and Rep. Pallone were joined by colleagues and over 100 local leaders, environmental and tourism groups, Jersey Shore business owners and residents at a rally on the Asbury Park boardwalk this Sunday to demand action to guard the Atlantic against offshore oil and gas exploration. The two lawmakers are the authors of the Clean Ocean and Safe Tourism (COAST) Anti-Drilling Act, which would ban oil and gas exploration, development, or production in the Atlantic Ocean. Sen. Menendez also introduced the “Kill the Drill: Anti-Atlantic Offshore Drilling” amendment to the Energy Policy Modernization Act, being debated in the Senate, that mirrors the COAST Anti-Drilling Act. 

Sen. Menendez and Rep. Pallone have kept the pressure on the Obama Administration since it first proposed to include the Mid- and South Atlantic in its latest five-year energy plan. In June, 2014, Menendez and Pallone stood on the Asbury Park boardwalk to warn the community of the negative economic and environmental impacts of offshore drilling in the Atlantic to the Jersey Shore.

The Obama Administration had previously proposed opening the Atlantic to oil and gas exploration in 2010, but Sen. Menendez, Rep. Pallone, the late-Sen. Frank Lautenberg and former Rep. Rush Holt (N.J.-12) were successful in convincing BOEM to abandon those plans.

Full text of the letter follows and can be downloaded here:

 

February 1, 2016

The Honorable Barack Obama

President of the United States

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

Congress recently passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act for fiscal year 2016, which included a repeal of the longstanding crude oil export ban—a policy change that will have significant negative consequences for U.S. workers, energy independence, and our ability to address global climate change.  The repeal will also create new pressure on your Administration to open protected waters to offshore drilling in order to help oil companies better serve their newly expanded markets. We write today to request your assistance in protecting the Atlantic Ocean from this type of exploitation by removing all Atlantic planning areas from the next iteration of the 2017-2022 Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Oil and Gas Leasing Program.

A recent study by the Brookings Institution found that lifting the export ban would result in an additional 4.7 million barrels per day of oil being pumped by 2035.  This amounts to a 50 percent increase in oil production over the next 20 years—and a $500 billion financial stimulus to the oil industry.  In order to fully realize this windfall, the oil industry will look to increase production in areas that have previously been off-limits, including in the Atlantic Ocean.  Adding insult to injury is the fact that the oil produced would no longer go to enhance our nation’s energy security—instead, it will be shipped overseas to the highest bidder. 

Drilling in the Atlantic is a risk-reward proposition—all of the risk is put on the backs of our shore communities, and all of the reward goes to Big Oil.  While New Jersey’s small businesses and fishing communities continue on the long road to recovery from Hurricane Sandy, the last thing they need is the threat of an oil spill destroying our shore economy and their livelihoods.  

The oil industry, by contrast, faces no such economic threat.  They have been the beneficiaries of $470 billion in federal tax subsidies, artificially low royalty rates for drilling on public lands, caps on their liability for oil spills, and now a $500 billion export bonus.  Oil companies—even with gas prices as low as they are—are making annual profits the likes of which people on the Jersey Shore won’t see in a lifetime, and spending much of it lobbying to undermine your Administration’s environmental initiatives and propagating climate denial.  Turning our coastal waters into an oilfield would be another in a long line of giveaways for an industry that does not need or deserve it.

One immediate step your Administration can take to counteract this new giveaway to Big Oil is to place the whole of the Atlantic Ocean off-limits for drilling in the next iteration of the 2017-2022 OCS plan.  The oil industry currently has millions of acres of non-producing offshore leases—these leases should be used to their fullest extent prior to opening up any new areas of U.S. coastline. Protecting the Atlantic coastline would be a win for our shore economies and would signal to the world that we’re ready to transition to clean energy technology rather than remaining tied to the dirty energy sources of the past.  We thank you for your consideration of this request.

Sincerely,