Washington, DC -Today, Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06) and a bipartisan group of the New Jersey Congressional delegation sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke opposing President Trump's plans for offshore drilling in the Atlantic Ocean. The signers urged Zinke to consider the severe economic and environmental impacts oil and gas development in the Atlantic would have on New Jersey.

"This administration's careless and catastrophic anti-environment agenda threatens our future environmental and economic health,” said Pallone. The fishing, boating and recreational industries would be debilitated by any oil spill along the Atlantic, endangering half a million jobs and a $40 billion a year economy.  Our communities rely on a thriving coastline, and this order endangers them- which is why members of both parties are standing up against proposals to expand coastal drilling."

Signers of the letter include: Senator Robert Menendez, Senator Cory Booker, Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman, Congressman Josh Gottheimer, Congressman Frank LoBiondo, Congressman Donald Norcross, Congressman Bill Pascrell, Congressman Donald M. Payne, Jr., and Congressman Albio Sires.

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.

The text of the letter is below:

May 12, 2017

The Honorable Ryan Zinke
Secretary of the Interior
1849 C Street, N.W.
Washington DC 20240

Dear Secretary Zinke:

We write in strong opposition to the executive order signed by President Trump to allow increased offshore drilling, including in the Atlantic Ocean. The order requires the Department of the Interior to revisit the 2017-2022 Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Oil and Gas Leasing Program, which could result in offshore drilling leases in the Atlantic. Oil and gas development in the Atlantic would have severe economic and environmental impacts on New Jersey and the Department of the Interior should not move forward with any attempts to allow it.

Last year, the Department of the Interior announced the removal of the Atlantic from consideration in its five-year oil and gas leasing plan. This was welcome news in New Jersey and all along the East Coast. The potential for drilling offshore united communities from across the Atlantic seaboard in opposition, resulting in 120 municipalities, 1,200 federal, state, and local elected officials, and a coalition of more than 35,000 businesses and over 500,000 fishing families publicly announcing their opposition to offshore oil and gas development in the Atlantic. The removal of the Mid-Atlantic from the final 2017-2022 OCS Lease Program was widely considered a victory not only for the environment, but also for clean coastal economies.

President Trump’s order to revisit the five-year plan does not account for the robust public record detailing widespread economic and environmental objections to drilling in the Atlantic. Tourism along the Jersey Shore generates almost $40 billion each year and supports half a million jobs –including the fishing, boating, and recreational industries. Allowing offshore drilling would unnecessarily threaten the economies of the communities that rely on a thriving coastline.  Fragile marine ecosystems and species would also be placed in danger of a potential future environmental disaster resulting from a blowout or other failure offshore. It is simply too great a risk to jeopardize these tremendous and unique economic and environmental resources.

There are also foreign policy and defense implications to allowing drilling in the Atlantic. For example, the Pentagon has been on record strongly opposed to potential drilling off the Atlantic coast because it could impact military maneuvers and the Navy’s ability to defend our shores. 

The costs and risks associated with drilling in the Atlantic are simply too high for New Jersey. Elected leaders on both sides of the aisle have long opposed any efforts to potentially open the Atlantic to oil and gas development.  We strongly encourage you to stand on the side of environmental stakeholders, the recreational and commercial fishing industries, coastal businesses, elected leaders in both parties, coastal communities and the people of New Jersey in rejecting oil and gas development in the Atlantic.