U.S. Senators Robert Menendez and Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Congressman Frank Pallone (D-6) released a joint statement on Tuesday protesting the Department of the Interior’s inclusion of the Atlantic Ocean in its Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Oil and Gas Leasing Draft Proposed Program (Five Year Program) for 2017-2022.

The New Jersey lawmakers stressed what they believe are the catastrophic environmental and economic consequences of an oil spill near the Jersey Shore.

The draft proposed Five Year Program, which was announced on Tuesday, allows for oil and gas exploration in a portion of the Mid- and South Atlantic planning areas, encompassing areas offshore of Virginia, North and South Carolina, and Georgia.

“It is unthinkable that the Administration would open parts of the Atlantic Ocean, a fragile and priceless ecosystem that is home to such a unique array of marine life, to oil and gas drilling and potential damage from pollution and oil spills.” the statement reads. “An oil spill in the Atlantic Ocean would not occur in isolation. A spill anywhere along the Atlantic coast would cause severe environmental damage to beaches, fisheries, and marine life throughout the Eastern Seaboard, while also seriously threatening the ocean-based economies that rely on them. Opening up the Atlantic coast to drill for fossil fuel is unnecessary, poses a serious threat to coastal communities throughout the region, and is the wrong approach to energy development in this country.

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