Menendez Leads NJ Delegation Invite to Zinke, Urges Public Hearing at Jersey Shore to Discuss Local Impact of Offshore Drilling

Menendez Leads NJ Delegation Invite to Zinke, Urges Public Hearing at Jersey Shore to Discuss Local Impact of Offshore Drilling

 
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) today sent a letter signed by the entire bipartisan state Congressional delegation inviting Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to New Jersey to see for himself what’s at stake should the Trump Administration move forward with plans to open the Atlantic Ocean to offshore oil and gas exploration, and to meet with constituents who have the most to lose. Following a meeting with Florida Gov. Rick Scott, Secretary Zinke removed the Sunshine State from consideration of expanded drilling off its coasts, citing the potential economic impact, concerns shared by New Jerseyans.

“We invite you to personally visit New Jersey prior to the issuance of the Proposed Program, to learn firsthand about how offshore drilling would harm our communities and our economy,” the invitation stated.  “We would be happy to facilitate such a visit and connect you with the individuals who have the most to lose in the event of an oil spill.”

The letter was signed by U.S. Senator Cory Booker and Representatives Donald Norcross (N.J.-01), Frank LoBiondo (N.J.-02), Tom MacArthur (N.J.-03), Chris Smith (N.J.-04), Josh Gottheimer (N.J.-05), Frank Pallone, Jr. (N.J.-06), Leonard Lance (N.J.-07), Albio Sires (N.J.-08), Bill Pascrell, Jr. (N.J.-09), Donald Payne, Jr. (N.J.-10), Rodney Frelinghuysen (N.J.-11) and Bonnie Watson Coleman (N.J.-12). They also urged the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) to hold a public hearing on their offshore drilling plan at the Jersey Shore, in addition to their planned public meeting in Trenton.

“Drilling off the coast of New Jersey puts each of these critical economic drivers at risk, and for that reason, we strongly oppose the recently-issued Draft Proposed Plan,” the letter continued.  “Our concerns are shared by generations of New Jersey families who have lived and vacationed along our pristine shores; by fishers whose livelihoods depend on clean coastal waters; and by the small businesses that rely on tourism to earn a family wage and to create jobs.”

Like Florida, New Jersey’s coastal communities rely on a bustling tourism industry, which generates over $44 billion in economic activity and supports over 800,000 jobs—nearly ten percent of the state’s workforce.  New Jersey also has a prosperous commercial fishing industry, which generates over $7.9 billion annually, and the state boasts one of the largest saltwater recreational fishing industries in the nation. The state’s commercial and recreational fishing industries support nearly 50,000 jobs.

“New Jersey’s coastal economy is one of the primary drivers of job creation and economic growth in our State,” the lawmakers wrote to Secretary Zinke.  “Given your recent meeting with Florida Governor Rick Scott, after which you decided to exclude Florida’s coasts from any offshore drilling, we believe that New Jersey also deserves the courtesy of a Secretarial visit.”

In 2012, shore residents and business owners were faced with Superstorm Sandy which devastated the coastline. Five years later, many New Jerseyans are still working to rebuild their homes and businesses. A disaster, such as an oil spill, would set back many residents who are trying to get back on their feet and it would be detrimental to the economy.

Earlier this week, Sens. Menendez and Booker joined a group of Senate colleagues from coast-to-coast in condemning the Trump Administration’s offshore drilling plan.  On Friday, they and Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (N.J.-06) sent a letter urging Secretary Zinke to reject BOEM’s plan to open the Atlantic Ocean to oil and gas exploration, which threatens the health of Jersey Shore beaches and its thriving economy. 

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 full text of the letter is below and can be downloaded here.

 

January 11, 2018

 

The Honorable Ryan Zinke

Secretary

United States Department of the Interior

1849 C Street NW

Washington, DC 20240

 

Dear Secretary Zinke:

 

In light of the recent release of the 2019-2014 Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Draft Proposed Program, we write to extend an invitation to you to personally visit New Jersey and meet with some of the people who would be most impacted by the plan.  Given your recent meeting with Florida Governor Rick Scott, after which you decided to exclude Florida’s coasts from any offshore drilling, we believe that New Jersey also deserves the courtesy of a Secretarial visit.  We also request that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management consider holding a public hearing in New Jersey, in addition to the public meeting scheduled in Trenton, and that you consider doing so in a coastal community. 

 

New Jersey’s coastal economy is one of the primary drivers of job creation and economic growth in our State.  In 2016, New Jersey’s tourism industry generated over $44 billion, directly supported over 321,000 jobs, and indirectly supported more than 517,000 jobs—a total of nearly 10% of the state’s workforce.  Beyond our workforce, the homes and businesses that make up New Jersey’s shore communities are valued at nearly $800 billion.

 

Also critical to the state’s economic health is a thriving fishing industry.  In 2015, New Jersey’s commercial seafood industry supported over 31,000 jobs.  We are also home to one of the largest saltwater recreational fishing industries in the nation, which supports over 16,000 jobs and generates nearly $1.5 billion in statewide economic impacts.

 

Drilling off the coast of New Jersey puts each of these critical economic drivers at risk, and for that reason, we strongly oppose the recently-issued Draft Proposed Plan.  Our concerns are shared by generations of New Jersey families who have lived and vacationed along our pristine shores; by fishers whose livelihoods depend on clean coastal waters; and by the small businesses that rely on tourism to earn a family wage and to create jobs.

 

We invite you to personally visit New Jersey prior to the issuance of the Proposed Program, to learn firsthand about how offshore drilling would harm our communities and our economy.  We would be happy to facilitate such a visit and connect you with the individuals who have the most to lose in the event of an oil spill.  Many of these individuals are still working to rebuild after the devastation of Superstorm Sandy, and cannot afford the risk of another disaster in the form of an oil spill.

 

Thank you for your consideration, and we hope to host you in New Jersey soon.

 

Sincerely,

 

 

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