BELMAR, NJ – Ahead of the July 4th holiday weekend, U.S. Senator Bob Menendez and Congressman Frank Pallone (N.J.-06) today visited the Belmar Boardwalk, where he met with local business owners and state tourism industry leaders to discuss legislation he’s introduced aimed at protecting the beach and the economic vitality of the Jersey Shore. Historically, a successful July 4th weekend can make or break the year for local businesses who depend on summer beachgoers.

In April, Sen. Menendez introduced the introduced the Clean Ocean and Safe Tourism (COAST) Anti-Drilling Act. The legislation 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. Earlier this year, the Obama Administration announced plans to open parts of the Atlantic Ocean to offshore oil and gas drilling.

“Every business here in Belmar and up and down the Jersey Shore depends on a healthy, vibrant Atlantic Ocean. It’s why people come down here in the first place,” said Sen. Menendez. “Any drilling in the Atlantic Ocean poses a real and unacceptable threat to New Jersey’s beaches. And our shore is too important to gamble our future on the empty promises of Big Oil.”

“I am proud to team with Senator Menendez on the COAST Act to protect our shore by prohibiting offshore drilling in the Atlantic,” said Rep. Pallone. “An oil spill in the Atlantic would inflict detrimental and lasting damage to our coastal economy and environment. With the Jersey Shore still recovering from Superstorm Sandy, we cannot risk another blow to our coast from an oil spill. Instead of focusing on industrial uses of the ocean, our country and the State of New Jersey should be encouraging the use of renewable energy resources.”

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management's 2017-2022 Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Draft Proposed Program (Five-Year Plan) suggests opening the Atlantic Ocean for the first time to oil and gas development. Although the plan recommends oil production in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, given ocean currents, a potential spill would put New Jersey’s economy and shore communities at significant risk.

“Belmar has come so far since Sandy devastated the Jersey Shore,” said Belmar Mayor Matt Doherty. “We can’t afford a manmade disaster that would erase our recovery and set the state even further back. The environmental and economic impacts of an oil spill in the Atlantic would be catastrophic.”

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 five years later, the Gulf Coast still hasn’t fully recovered from its catastrophic impact. At a time when New Jerseyans are still working to rebuild their lives after Superstorm Sandy, the last thing we need is the prospect of a manmade disaster from an oil spill.

“The last thing that the tourism industry in New Jersey needs is the threat of a manmade disaster from an oil spill, said Sharon Franz, president of the New Jersey Tourism Industry Association (NJTIA). “An oil spill anywhere off the coast of the Atlantic would cause long-lasting, irreparable damage to New Jersey’s tourism industry, forcing people to travel and spend their money and vacation time in other states.”

The Jersey Shore is home to over $700 billion in coastal properties and a tourism industry that generates $38 billion a year and directly 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 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 which is threatened by offshore drilling.

“Preventing the expansion of offshore drilling with the COAST Anti-Drilling Act is an important first step for all of us—for Belmar, for our families, for the tourism industry, for fishermen, for sportsmen and everyone—who enjoys our coastline and everyone whose livelihood depends on it,” Sen. Menendez said. “We’re here to say that our coastline is not for sale.”

The COAST Act is cosponsored by U.S. Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), and Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) who represent Atlantic Coast states. Rep. Pallone introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives with 13 original co-sponsors.

In January, Sens. Menendez and Booker, and Rep. Pallone sent a letter to President Obama calling on his administration to abandon plans to open parts of the Atlantic Ocean to offshore oil and gas drilling.