ASBURY PARK, NJ—New Brunswick's Congressman Frank Pallone Jr., and the state's two US Senators have actively joined in the campaign to fight the oil industry from exploiting the Atlantic Ocean through 0ffshore drilling.
Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker rallied in Asbury Park on January 31, along with Congressman Pallone and over 100 local leaders, environmentalists and tourist groups to raise awareness about the negative impacts of drilling in the Atlantic on the economy and environment of New Jersey.
Though drilling has not been approved for anywhere near the New Jersey coastline, it is a possibile that the federal "Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program" could expand to include it in its 2017 to 2022 iteration.
“The Jersey Shore is one of our most precious natural resources, providing enjoyment for generations of New Jersey families and visitors alike. An oil spill threatens everything we hold dear about the Shore – and we have to do everything in our power to prevent it from becoming a reality,” said Senator Menendez at the rally.
Representative Pallone had this to say: “I have said time and time again that we cannot jeopardize our state and regional economies, our environment and our marine life to pursue a dangerous and outdated energy policy. I urge the Administration to think twice before allowing Big Oil to endanger New Jersey’s environmental and economic well-being.”
The Jersey Shore is home to about $700 billion in properties and generates $38 million from tourism.
The fishing industry on the shore alone produces $7.9 billion a year, supporting roughly 50,000 jobs.
Nearly 10% of the state's workforce is centered around the shore, directly and indirectly, and all of these aspects would be jeopardized with drilling on the east coast.
The legislators collaborated on the Clean Ocean and Safe Tourism (COAST) Anti-Drilling Act, banning oil and gas expansion and production in the Atlantic.
With this, they introduced the “Kill the Drill: Anti-Atlantic Offshore Drilling” amendment to the Energy Policy Modernization Act, currently being debated in the Senate.
The goal is to keep American offshore drilling out of the Atlantic Ocean altogether.
The Kill the Drill amendment would prohibit the U.S. Department of Interior from being able to issue leases for the exploration, development or production of oil or gas in the North, Mid or South Atlantic Ocean.
Booker, Menendez, and Pallone also wrote to the administration of US President Barack Obama. The adminsitration had originally proposed to include offshore drilling in the Mid and South Atlantic regions in their latest five-year energy plan.
“Drilling in the Atlantic is a risk-reward proposition – all 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,” reads the letter.
The authors also recalled the catastrophic Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, that the gulf still is recovering from today, as a fragile ecosystem suffers environmental damage that cannot be undone.