Menendez Reponds to President's Coastline Drilling Plan

Menendez Reponds to President's Coastline Drilling Plan

NJ Senator calls for comprehensive environmental and economic impact review and review of effect on critical military training and testing area

Washington - Today, U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), a leading proponent of transitioning America to alternative, domestic fuels and a staunch defender of the coastline released the following statement:

"I have let the administration know that if they do not protect New Jersey from the effects of coastal drilling in the climate change bill, then my vote is in question. I am deeply concerned about the threat coastline drilling poses to the Jersey Shore's economy and to the potential for new jobs and energy savings that can be harnessed in a clean energy economy. If issues like coastline drilling are being promoted to gain Republican votes and support from oil companies, then we need to know exactly how much support it will actually deliver -- this can't be a case of giving up something for nothing.

"While I am pleased that the Administration will be conducting an environmental review before proceeding on lease sales potentially close to the Jersey Shore, I am concerned that it has not taken this area out of its five year plan pending an environmental review -- as it is doing for the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas in Alaska. I expect a serious and thorough review. If it turns out to be nothing more than a rubber stamp, then this announcement will amount to yet another no-questions-asked handout for rich oil companies. In that scenario, the lease sales will go forward and the coastlines of Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey will be under threat. Even Virginia will not be happy because it gets drilling in its waters, but not any revenue sharing. Only big oil companies would win.

"I look forward to working with the Administration to make sure this environmental review is done comprehensively, but I will also be asking for an economic impact review. Drilling in Virginia waters is less than 100 miles from the New Jersey coastline. Approximately 60 percent of New Jersey's $38 billion tourism industry comes from the Jersey Shore and the state's multi-billion dollar fishing industry would also be threatened by the specter of a potential oil spill. At the very least New Jersey deserves a 125 mile buffer from drilling, just like Florida received in the announced deal.

"I am also concerned that the Administration will be doing studies to determine whether further exploration should happen all along the Mid and Southern Atlantic. That raises the possibility of drilling in Delaware waters, just 10 miles away from New Jersey.

"Instead of expanding coastline drilling, we should be focused on developing a 21st century green economy. We cannot drill our way out of this problem. Even the Bush Administration's Energy Information Administration estimated opening all out-shores to drilling would have no effect on gas prices. Instead of making rich oil companies richer we should be competing with Europe, Japan and China to win the competition to supply the world with next generation green technologies. Buying hybrids for the federal government and raising fuel economy standards is a start but we could and should do more.

"It is also troubling that it appears the lease sales in Virginia could go forward and interfere with the Navy's Virginia Capes Operating Area, a critical military training and testing area. At a time when we are fighting two wars we should not be compromising military readiness no matter what oil companies want."

Click here for a letter from the Department of the Navy to the Department of the Interior expressing their opposition to the Virginia lease sale:

Expanded Coastline Drilling is a Threat to New Jersey and the Nation

Coastal Economic Impact

From fisheries to tourism, our coasts provide sustainable jobs for millions of Americans and contribute approximately $11.4 trillion to the nation's economy.

Coastline drilling is bad for New Jersey's tourism industry

• When medical waste washed up on New Jersey's beaches in 1988, there were 22% fewer visitors to the shore in 1988 versus 1987, which resulted in an estimated drop in revenue of more than $1 billion. And that was waste that could be fully cleaned up-unlike an oil spill. For example, as a result of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill off the coast of Alaska, 21,000 gallons of crude still linger in the areas where the spill occurred, and oil-stained sand can still be found on the beaches nearby. In the event of an oil spill the Jersey Shore could be damaged permanently.

• The New Jersey tourism industry in 2007 generated $38 billion in revenues (and $4.2 billion in state and local taxes), and has more than 466,000 workers (11.4% of total NJ workers) earning salaries totaling $16 billion -- providing hospitality to more than 75 million visitors to the Garden State. The Atlantic City area (36.0%) and the rest of the Jersey Shore (Ocean/Monmouth/Cape May/Cumberland Counties, 28.6%) makes up 64.6% of New Jersey's tourism industry. Just think about how damaging an oil spill would be to our state's economic health.

Coastline drilling is bad for New Jersey's fishing industry

As of 2003, the NJ fishing industry brings in $4.5 billion annually from fisheries, aquaculture and recreational fishing. New Jersey's commercial ports rank fourth in the nation in the value of their catch and 1.3 million recreational fishermen enjoy the Jersey Shore's rich saltwater fisheries. In fact, New Jersey's most valuable commercial port (the nation's third most valuable) is less than 100 miles from proposed Virginia offshore drilling.

National Security

Today's announced drilling was made contrary to the Department of Defense's long opposition to the encroachment of offshore drilling on the Navy's Virginia Capes Operating Area (VACAPES). VACAPES is a critically important test and training range, as well as an essential operating area. The Navy has been training in this area for nearly a century because it is an optimal place to operate in a safe and controlled environment. Realistic training is the single greatest asset the military has in preparing its personnel for combat. In addition, VACAPES is the Navy's primary area for testing certain kinds of weapons and ship technologies. Specifically, VACAPES is the designated area for the evaluation missile launches which requires wide areas clear of development to allow these missiles to land safely. It is also the Navy's primary area to test autonomous underwater vehicles. Offshore oil drilling in the area could severely impair the Navy's ability to develop and maintain critical combat technologies. Any interference with these training activities risks jeopardizing our military readiness.

Coastline drilling is bad for the environment

Drilling for oil and gas causes water pollution, damages fragile eco-systems, and harms marine life. And that's the case even without an oil spill occurring. As a result of Hurricane Katrina, the Environmental Protection Agency, the US Minerals Management Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Coast Guard all agree that the storms caused 700,000 gallons of oil to spill into the Gulf of Mexico and over 9 million gallons of oil to leak onshore from the infrastructure that supports offshore drilling.

Why open up new off-shore areas when so many areas leased for drilling are going unused?

The Minerals Management Service estimates that 79 percent of the proven oil and gas reserves left in the United States are in areas already opened for oil and gas drilling - mainly on land and in the central and western Gulf of Mexico.
All told 68 million acres of federal land and water has been leased by oil companies, but have yet to produce any oil or natural gas.

Drilling our coasts will not do anything to lower gas prices

The Department of Energy's Energy Information Agency projects that even if we opened up the entire Outer Continental Shelf to drilling-off the East Coast, off the West Coast, and opened up the entire Eastern Gulf of Mexico-nothing would happen to gas prices. Not today, not tomorrow, not ever. That's because oil is a global commodity whose price is set by global supply and demand. The best-case scenario is that American coastline drilling could produce 2-4 million barrels per day, which would have little effect on global oil prices in a world that today consumes 80 million barrels per day.