No eastern seaboard oil drilling – for now
The southern Atlantic coast has been omitted from consideration for oiil and gas exploration in the latest version of leasing plans by the U.S. Department of the Interior - a move that won quick applause from two shore Congressman who stridently oppose it.
The 2017-2022 Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program had previously included a provision, in draft form, that would have opened the territory to exploration. Representatives Frank Pallone (D-6) and Frank LoBiondo (R-2) mounted strenuous arguments against the plan.
Pallone outlined the potential damage to New Jersey and other Atlantic Coast states in two communiques to Interior officials, and got support from Democrat, U.S. Senators Robert Menendez and Cory Booker (D-NJ).
In a prepared statement, Pallone expressed relief over the revision. “That proposal was incredibly shortsighted, and would have threatened the ecology and economy, and public health all along the Atlantic coast, including our New Jersey coastline," Pallone said.
Virginia is most commonly cited among the Atlantic-bordering states lobbying hard for drilling revenues. The distance of only a few hundred miles from the southern end of Lobiondo's district, in Cape May County, triggered his fevered response during the federal Bureau of Energy Management's March 2015 hearing in Atlantic City.
The Republican contends that mid-Atlantic drilling would jeopardize sensitive coastal and marine resources that form the foundation of New Jersey's $43,000,000,000 annual tourism trade, encompassing more than a half-million jobs.
"Additionally, our robust commercial and recreational fisheries, some of the largest in the nation, generate over a billion dollars in revenue,” LoBiondo said.. “I have been proud to the lead bipartisan opposition to efforts by Republican and Democratic Presidents to issue new drilling leases in these waters.”
H.R. 569, introduced by LoBiondo in 2015, would ban drilling off the New Jersey coast. It's the most recent version of a bill he's submitted in each session of Congress since 1999.
Pallone's COAST Anti-Drilling Act (H.R. 1977) has 30 cosponsors in the House and companion Senate legislation drafted by Menendez.
“As we were reminded by the tragic Deepwater Horizon disaster almost six years ago, oil spills do not respect state boundaries," Pallone said. "A blowout or malfunction in the southern Atlantic, with currents that move north along the coast, would likely threaten the health, safety, and livelihoods of people in New Jersey and even further north."
“This victory could not have been achieved without the efforts of countless business owners, fishermen, and concerned residents in New Jersey and elsewhere," he concluded. "I thank them for their tireless advocacy, and I look forward to continuing our work to protect the communities we call home.”