Menendez, Booker Join Senate Colleagues in Shredding Trump Administration’s Offshore Drilling Reversal

Menendez, Booker Join Senate Colleagues in Shredding Trump Administration’s Offshore Drilling Reversal

   

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker today joined a group of three dozen Senators in sharply criticizing the Trump administration’s decision to reopen offshore drilling leases three years ahead of schedule. This decision puts vast stretches of coastline along the Pacific and Atlantic coasts and in the Arctic at risk.

“This draft proposal is an ill-advised effort to circumvent public and scientific input, and we object to sacrificing public trust, community safety, and economic security for the interests of the oil industry,” the Senators wrote today in a letter to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. “We urge you to abandon this effort and maintain the protections outlined in the current 2017-2022 plan.”

The Trump administration’s decision to push a rewrite of the existing 2017-2022 offshore drilling plan has wasted valuable taxpayer resources and ignored extensive community input that went into the original plan. In many locations across the country, public input urged strong protections against drilling, as coastal communities that rely on commercial fishing and tourism for their economies feared the impacts that drilling and the potential of spills could have on their ecosystems, businesses and jobs.

Along with Sens. Menendez and Booker, the letter was also signed by Senators Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.).

On Friday, Sens. Menendez and Booker and Congressman Pallone, Jr. (N.J. – 06) sent a letter urging Secretary Zinke to reject the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) plan to open the Atlantic Ocean to oil and gas exploration, which threatens the health of Jersey Shore beaches and its thriving economy.

The Jersey Shore is home to nearly $800 billion in coastal properties and a tourism industry that generates $44 billion a year and supports over 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 has one of the largest saltwater recreational fishing industries in the nation.  All of these are threatened by offshore drilling.

The federal lawmakers expressed added concern given Trump Administration efforts to roll back established offshore drilling safety standards put in place after the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon disaster, including the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement’s well control rule, which updated requirements for offshore drilling equipment in an attempt to prevent another catastrophic oil spill.

The economic and environmental devastation caused by the Deepwater Horizon tragedy far exceeded what many believed would be the worst-case scenario for an offshore oil accident.  More than seven years later, the Gulf Coast still hasn’t fully recovered from its catastrophic impact. At a time when New Jerseyans are continuing to rebuild their lives after Superstorm Sandy, the last thing they need is the prospect of a manmade disaster from an oil spill.

Sens. Menendez and Booker and Rep. Pallone led the charge in 2015 to remove the Atlantic Ocean from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management's 2017-2022 Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Draft Proposed Program (Five-Year Plan).

The New Jersey lawmakers also successfully convinced President Obama before leaving office to permanently ban oil and gas exploration in areas of the Atlantic Ocean by exercising the authority granted to him by Congress under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA).

In May, Sens. Menendez and Booker and Rep. Pallone reintroduced their Clean Ocean and Safe Tourism (COAST) Anti-Drilling Act that prohibits the U.S. Department of Interior from issuing leases for the exploration, development, or production of oil or gas in the North, Mid-, or South Atlantic Ocean or the Straits of Florida.

The full text of today’s letter is below and can be downloaded here.

January 9, 2018

The Honorable Ryan Zinke

Secretary

United States Department of the Interior

1849 C Street NW

Washington, DC 20240

Dear Secretary Zinke:

We write in strong opposition to your agency’s misuse of taxpayer funds and agency resources to issue a draft 2019-2024 Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program in the middle of the current 2017-2022 Five-Year Plan. This draft proposal is an ill-advised effort to circumvent public and scientific input, and we object to sacrificing public trust, community safety, and economic security for the interests of the oil industry. We urge you to abandon this effort and maintain the protections outlined in the current 2017-2022 plan.

During your confirmation hearings, you pledged to incorporate local input into the management of our nation’s public lands. Our constituents, scientific bodies, businesses, and local elected officials have already decidedly rejected efforts to expand offshore drilling that could compromise ecosystems, tourism and recreation, public safety, and marine industries. The governors of New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, California, Oregon, Washington, and the Attorney General of Rhode Island all are formally opposed to new leasing off their respective shores. Additionally, more than 150 municipalities on the East Coast, West Coast, and Gulf of Mexico have passed resolutions opposing offshore oil and gas drilling and exploration. The New England, Mid-Atlantic, and South Atlantic Fishery Management Councils, the Department of Defense, Air Force, and NASA have all weighed in expressing serious concerns or opposition to offshore exploration and drilling. More than 41,000 businesses and 500,000 fishing families have also expressed opposition to drilling in their communities.

The current 2017-2022 plan already allows leasing for more than 45 billion barrels of oil, and guarantees protections for vital resources in the Arctic, Pacific, and Atlantic. The nation’s coasts are already bearing the consequences of climate change through rising sea levels, coastal erosion, and increased storm surges and flooding. We should not open all previously closed outer continental shelf areas to fossil fuel extraction and further endanger our climate, coastlines, communities, and economies. Especially in the harsh and fragile Arctic, where your agency has predicted a 75 percent chance of a major oil spill, proposing 19 new leases is the height of irresponsibility.

We are deeply troubled by your decision to open more than 90% of the outer continental shelf to fossil fuel development and needlessly put our coastal residents, businesses, oceans, and climate at grave risk. Offering 47 leases by expanding drilling into the Arctic, Pacific, Atlantic and Eastern Gulf of Mexico waters would lock us into decades of carbon pollution, and endanger future generations and livelihood simply for short-term gain of major oil companies.

We strongly object to this draft proposal, and urge you to maintain protection for the Arctic, Pacific, Atlantic and Eastern Gulf of Mexico and for our communities.

Sincerely, 

###