WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) today spoke on the Senate Floor in opposition of the Trump Administration’s plan to allow offshore oil and gas drilling in the Atlantic, threatening the Jersey Shore economy and environment. In advocating for local businesses reliant on a healthy Atlantic Ocean, Sen. Menendez said, “Their businesses are the lifeblood of the Jersey Shore. Their voices deserve to be heard. Their livelihoods are on the line.”
Sen. Menendez renewed his invitation to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to meet with constituents and business leaders who would be affected by Atlantic Ocean drilling and oil and gas exploration. Secretary Zinke last month announced the offshore drilling plan will not include drilling off the coast of Florida, which came as a result of Sec. Zinke’s personal meeting with Governor Rick Scott.
“We’d be happy to have [Zinke] meet with community leaders, business owners, and families who depend on our clean coasts,” said Sen. Menendez on the Senate Floor. “And if he wants to focus on the economics of oil drilling, I suggest he start with the thousands of people who would be out of a job if oil started washing up on our beaches.”
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.
Sen. Menendez has been a leading voice in Congress against the Administration’s harmful proposal.
Last month, Sens. Menendez and Booker joined a group of Senate colleagues from coast-to-coast in condemning the Trump Administration’s offshore drilling plan. Both Sens. along with 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 New Jersey lawmakers also successfully convinced President Obama before leaving office to permanently ban oil and gas exploration in areas of the Atlantic Ocean by exercising the authority granted to him by Congress under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA).
Sen. Menendez’s remarks as prepared are below:
“M. President, I rise today in strong opposition to the Trump Administration’s offshore drilling plan.
“I’m here to speak on behalf of New Jersey’s shore businesses—the restaurants, the bait-and-tackle shops, the bed and breakfasts—that depend on clean beaches to succeed.
“Their businesses are the lifeblood of the Jersey shore. Their voices deserve to be heard. Their livelihoods are on the line.
“Yet this Administration remains solely focused on what’s good for Big Oil’s bottom line.
“Never mind the consequences for our economy, or the health of our planet, or our vibrant coastal communities.
“The Interior Department’s offshore drilling plan reads like a wish-list for oil industry executives.
“Clearly, the Trump Administration didn’t consult my constituents while drafting this plan…
“Not the shop owners in Asbury Park, or the fishermen in Belford, or the innkeepers in Cape May… Because if they did, they would have learned that our shoreline is an economic powerhouse for our state.
“Each year, New Jersey’s tourism industry generates $44 billion in economic activity, directly and indirectly supporting nearly 10 percent of the state’s workforce.
“Likewise, our seafood industry supports over 31,000 jobs, and we’re home to one of America’s largest saltwater recreational fisheries, supporting over 16,000 jobs.
“Together, the homes and businesses along the Jersey shore encompass almost $800 billion in property values.
“All of this adds up to a simple reality—clean coasts are vital to the economic security of millions of New Jerseyans.
“And the same holds true for towns up and down the Atlantic shoreline.
“Yet the Trump Administration’s plan ignores the concerns of the communities who have the most to lose.
“They ignore the more than 120 municipalities, 1,200 elected officials, 41,000 businesses, and 500,000 fishing families from up and down the East Coast who’ve voiced their opposition to oil and gas drilling.
“They ignore concerns from the Pentagon and NASA about disruptions to their operations from drilling in the Atlantic.
“They ignore the opposition of my West Coast colleagues to drilling in the Pacific.
“They ignore the Department of the Interior’s own finding that Arctic drilling comes with a 75 percent chance of an oil spill, in a treacherous and challenging environment.
“Simply put: the Trump drilling plan ignores everyone— except for Big Oil.
“What’s happening here is a dream scenario for the oil industry —but a nightmare for our shore communities.
“It’s a gift to corporate polluters at the expense of our coastal economies.
“But make no mistake – this Administration’s massive expansion of offshore drilling is just the beginning.
“They’re also working to dismantle minimal safety standards for offshore drilling…
“That’s right – the Trump Administration not only wants more offshore drilling – it also wants more dangerous offshore drilling.
“The Interior Department reportedly seeks to weaken the well control rule— the critical safety standards put in place after the Deepwater Horizon tragedy.
“Instead of saving lives, the Trump Administration’s actions aim to save the industry $900 million.
“During his Senate confirmation, Secretary Zinke promised to “work with rather than against local communities and states.”
“Well, it sure feels like he’s working against New Jersey.
“The Secretary has shown no concern for the Jersey shore communities that would be devastated by an oil spill…
“The shuttered businesses… The destroyed industries… The massive job losses.
“Which is why it’s all the more baffling that Secretary Zinke recently said that after hearing from concerned Florida businesses and public officials, he’d consider exempting the state from the disastrous Trump drilling plan.
“When asked about the decision, the Secretary said that, “local voices count.” Well, if it’s good enough for Mar-a-Lago it should be good enough for the Jersey shore.
“That’s why every member of the New Jersey congressional delegation – Republicans and Democrats alike – recently joined me on a letter inviting Secretary Zinke to visit the Jersey shore.
“We’d be happy to have him meet with community leaders, business owners, and families who depend our clean coasts.
“And if he wants to focus on the economics of oil drilling, I suggest he start with the thousands of people who would be out of a job if oil started washing up on our beaches.
“The Secretary needs to hear from constituents of mine, like Charles of Toms River, who recently wrote to say “We already have some shoreline concerns, thanks to Superstorm Sandy. We definitely don't need another threat to our economy.”
“Or Jeanne, from New Brunswick, who wrote “Tourism is a major New Jersey business. Our beaches are pristine and must be protected.”
“Or any of the thousands of New Jerseyans who have signed my COAST Anti-Drilling Act, a bill to permanently ban drilling in the whole of the Atlantic Ocean.
“The Jersey Shore is a national treasure, home to generations of family vacations, successful small businesses, and vibrant coastal communities.
“That might not mean anything to Exxon Mobil or BP. That might not mean anything to President Trump or Secretary Zinke…
“But it means something to me.
“That’s why I’m here today – to give voice to the New Jerseyans who’ve gone unheard.
“We will not stand silent while this Administration auctions the Jersey shore off to the highest bidder… Not without a fight.”