Menendez, Booker Slam Trump Admin for Rolling Back Offshore Drilling Safety Standards, Reintroduce Bill to Ban Offshore Drilling in Atlantic

Menendez, Booker Slam Trump Admin for Rolling Back Offshore Drilling Safety Standards, Reintroduce Bill to Ban Offshore Drilling in Atlantic

COAST Act would #KillTheDrill, protect Atlantic beaches, Jersey Shore economy


WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker (both-D-N.J.) today ripped the Trump Administration for following through with its planned rollback of critical offshore drilling safety regulations put in place following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster that killed 11 and contaminated Gulf Coast waters and beaches.  The senators, along with 16 other cosponsors, today reintroduced the Clean Ocean and Safe Tourism (COAST) Anti-Drilling Act that would ban offshore oil and gas drilling and exploration in the Atlantic Ocean. 

“Today’s announcement just proves that even as the Trump Administration faces legal setbacks to their Outer Continental Shelf leasing plan, they will stop at nothing to sell out the safety of workers, the health of our shore environment and the vitality of our coastal economies to the powerful oil and gas industry,” said. Sen. Menendez.  “By significantly weakening the well control rule—the one modest safety reform created after the Deepwater Horizon tragedy—the Administration is willfully ignoring the lessons of the past and putting our shore communities at greater risk of a catastrophic oil spill.  The only solution left is to outright ban offshore oil and gas drilling in the Atlantic. 

“The Jersey Shore is a birthright for every New Jerseyan and I’ll continue to protect our coastal communities, tourism industry, and marine ecosystems,” continued Sen. Menendez, who announced he’s also cosponsoring the West Coast Ocean Protection Act led by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) to ban offshore drilling in the Pacific.  “Together, with coastal communities, local businesses, the fishing industry, and elected officials of both parties at all levels of government, we’re united in sending a message to the Trump Administration and Big Oil: Stay off our shores

“By rolling back the drilling safety regulations put in place after Deepwater Horizon, the Trump Administration has once again shown its disregard for the safety of our coastal communities,” Sen. Booker said. “An oil spill would not only be an environmental disaster for our beaches, fisheries and marine life, but the economic consequences would ripple across the region in the form of lost jobs and shuttered businesses. Our bill, which bans offshore oil and gas drilling off the Atlantic coast, seeks to prevent an oil-related disaster in New Jersey and our neighboring states.”

COAST 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.  Sen. Menendez’s legislation is cosponsored by Sens. Booker, Feinstein, Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). 

Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-N.J.-06) is the chief sponsor of companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

“President Trump’s dangerous plans for offshore drilling will risk the livelihoods of millions on the Atlantic Coast and in New Jersey,” said Rep. Pallone.  “An oil spill anywhere along the Atlantic Coast would cause severe environmental damage to fisheries, popular beaches and wildlife, which is why we need to maintain the protections put into place after the Deepwater Horizon spill and a ban on expansion of offshore drilling. I’m proud to be leading the COAST Anti-Drilling Act in the House and will continue to work with members of the New Jersey delegation to prevent the Trump Administration from wreaking havoc on our coastal communities.”

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt today released the final version of the Trump Administration’s Well Control Rule rollback to ease the testing requirements for critical oil rig equipment, such as the blowout preventer, which failed in the Deepwater Horizon spill.  Sens. Menendez, Booker and several Senate colleagues opposed the rule change when Secretary Bernhardt’s predecessor, Ryan Zinke, first proposed it last year. 

Sens. Menendez and Harris led the opposition to Secretary Bernhardt’s confirmation, due, at least in part, to his role in expanding offshore drilling that threatens their states’ coastal economies.  Prior to his confirmation vote, Sens. Menendez, Feinstein and Merkley urged the Secretary to “come clean” on whether he had intended to advance the Trump Administration’s plans to expand offshore drilling.  Sen. Booker joined in both efforts.  Secretary Bernhardt has failed to respond to the senators’ request.

The Jersey Shore is home to over $800 billion in coastal properties and a tourism industry that generates $38 billion a year and 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 supports over 30,000 jobs, and the state has one of the largest saltwater recreational fishing industries in the nation.  All of these are threatened by offshore drilling.

The economic and environmental devastation of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon tragedy far exceeded what many believed would be the worst-case scenario for an offshore oil accident.  More than nine 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 helped lead the charge in 2015 to convince the previous administration to remove the Atlantic Ocean from its five-year plan for 2017-2022, and for President Obama to use his authority under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) before leaving office to ban oil and gas exploration in areas of the Atlantic Ocean.