ASBURY PARK, N.J. – U.S. Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker, and Congressman Frank Pallone (N.J.-06) today were joined by over 100 local leaders, environmental and tourism groups, Jersey Shore business owners and residents at a rally on the Asbury Park boardwalk to demand action to guard the Atlantic against offshore oil and gas exploration.
The Obama Administration is currently planning to allow oil production off the coast of Virginia, the Carolinas and Georgia, putting New Jersey’s economy and shore communities at significant risk of a catastrophic oil spill. The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is expected to release its revised plan in the coming weeks.
“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 Sen. Menendez. “Let’s call Atlantic drilling what it is: another handout to the oil industry. Oil companies don’t need another gift from the federal government.”
“We must stand united in protecting the people and economy of the Jersey Shore and the entire East Coast in the face of the potentially irreparable effects from drilling in the Atlantic,” said Sen. Booker. “Knowing full well the devastating economic and environmental dangers associated with catastrophic oil spills like Deepwater Horizon, we simply can’t stand idly by while our region is exposed to the same risk.”
“Allowing offshore drilling in the Atlantic would inevitably set the stage for another man-made environmental catastrophe—this time, off the Jersey Shore and up and down the East Coast,” said Rep. Pallone. “We know that the technology to drill safely does not exist and that the effects of a spill would be devastating and long-lasting. 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we cannot jeopardize our state and regional economies, our environment, and our marine life to pursue a dangerous and outdated energy policy.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 federal lawmakers cited the massive 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that caused long term marine and coastal damage in several Gulf States and said a similar incident in the Mid-Atlantic would still threaten New Jersey’s coastline.
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 wrote the Clean Ocean and Safe Tourism (COAST) Anti-Drilling Act, co-sponsored by Sen. Booker, which would ban oil and gas exploration, development, or production in the Atlantic Ocean. Sens. Menendez and Booker also joined several other East Coast Senators last week in introducing the “Kill the Drill: Anti-Atlantic Offshore Drilling” amendment to the Energy Policy Modernization Act, being debated in the Senate, that mirrors the COAST Act.
Sens. Menendez and Booker 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.
Rep. Pallone stands up for the Jersey Shore and against offshore drilling.
The federal representatives were joined today by Asbury Park Mayor John Moor, Belmar Mayor Matt Doherty, Union Beach Mayor Paul Smith, Bradley Beach Mayor Gary Engelstad, Assemblywoman Joan Downey and Assemblyman Eric Houghtaling. The following individuals and organizations participated in the rally to protect our coast:
Cindy Zipf, executive director of Clean Ocean Action, said: “Climate change, caused by our use of fossil fuels, is real and that is why President Obama is calling for resolve and action to transition away from ‘old and dirtier’ sources. He must start now, and remove the Atlantic Ocean from any further consideration of oil and gas development. The ocean is key to our ecological and economic health. New Jersey has been leading the nation with strong bi-partisan opposition to drilling in the Atlantic Ocean, and we are grateful that U.S. Senators Menendez and Booker, and Congressman Pallone are taking our message to President Obama.”
Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, said: “Our coast is being threatened by offshore drilling. It could cause serious and lasting environmental harm and could ruin our tourism industry. Drilling anywhere in the Mid-Atlantic would directly put our coasts at risk. Even a spill off of Virginia would find its way to our shores. The oil would be taken to refineries in our area, further putting us at risk. With Congress lifting the export ban, the only oil we may see from offshore drilling will be what washes up on our beaches. The rest of it will end up in China or Europe and not in our gas tanks. We have to stand up to those fossil fools in Washington and tell them we want renewable energy instead of dirty fuels. We want windmills off our coasts, not oil rigs. The only oil we ever want to see at our beaches is suntan oil!”
Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey, said: “We can’t keep digging the climate hole deeper by expanding off-shore drilling off the Atlantic. We need to stop off-shore drilling’s expansion off the Atlantic Coast that will put a permanent oily stain on President Obama’s climate legacy and put the Jersey Shore at risk. The President’s legacy should be clean energy, not the potential for oil-slicked beaches in Cape May. Ocean currents don’t care about state boundaries and our beaches shouldn’t be a sacrifice zone to oil companies.”
Tom Fote, legislative chairman of the Jersey Coast Anglers Assoc., said: "Jersey Coast Anglers Association and the NJ State Federation of Sportsmens Clubs are opposed to offshore drilling for any purpose off the Atlantic Coast. The negative impact on fishing and the environment as a result of the BP oil spill only confirmed our long term commitment to protecting the Jersey shore from a similar disaster. Because of the huge population along the 600 miles of coast from Massachusetts to Virginia and the importance of the commercial and recreational fishing communities, the impact of any oil spill here would be even more catastrophic."
Jim Donofrio, executive director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance, said: "Oil companies and the feds proved during the Horizon spill that they can’t handle any offshore, deep water drilling. There is enough oil and gas to run all our nation from inland sources and we need to stop drilling the ocean floor. It is too fragile of an environment."
Amy Goldsmith, N.J. director of Clean Water Action, said: “Now is the time for President Obama to be leaving a lasting positive environmental legacy, a time to explore for clean, safe and affordable renewable energy, energy efficiency and conservation, and a diverse array of corresponding green jobs—not set a course towards putting the ocean up for sale.”
Vicki Clark, president of the Cape May County Chamber of Commerce, said: “An oil spill along the Mid-Atlantic Coast would not occur in isolation and could cause catastrophic damage to our fragile and priceless ecosystem. Cape May County is located at the most southern tip of New Jersey, whose quality of life and economy is driven by beach tourism, ecotourism and aquaculture, all of which would be devastated in the event of a drilling disaster.”
Tim Dillingham, executive director of the American Littoral Society, said: “We have a clear vision for the future of our ocean and coast: clean water, abundant wildlife, vibrant traditional and sustainable economies from tourism and fisheries. Each of these is threatened by oil and gas development in the mid-Atlantic ocean. We know what we want our ocean’s future to look like, and it doesn’t include giving it away to the oil industry. The President should listen to the citizens whose lives will be affected by this decision, and drop the mid-Atlantic from the leasing program.”
John Weber, Mid-Atlantic regional manager for the Surfrider Foundation, said: “The Surfrider Foundation knows that offshore oil drilling is not the answer. This is why a group of our members and activists from Florida to New York will be descending on Washington DC next week to convince elected leaders and Administration officials that coastal and ocean recreation is more valuable to our economy than dirty fossil fuel extraction.”
American Littoral Society
Association of N.J. Environmental Commissions
Bradley Beach Environmental Commission
Cape May County Chamber of Commerce
Citizens Climate Lobby
Clean Ocean Action
Clean Water Action
Environment New Jersey
Food & Water Watch N.J.
Garden State Seafood Association
Jersey Coast Anglers Association
Langosta Lounge, Asbury Park
League of Women Voters
N.J. Citizen Action
N.J. League of Conservation Voters
N.J. League of Municipalities
N.J. Sierra Club
N.J. Tourism Industry Association
Recreational Fishing Alliance
Save Barnegat Bay
Surfers Environmental Alliance