Long Branch – Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06) and Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) hosted a roundtable on Monday to highlight legislation to permanently ban offshore oil and gas drilling in the Atlantic Ocean. Last month, Pallone and Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) reintroduced the Clean Ocean and Safe Tourism (COAST) Anti-Drilling Act that prohibits the U.S. Department of Interior from issuing leases for the exploration, development, or production of oil or gas along the Atlantic Coast, including the North, Mid-, and South Atlantic and Straits of Florida planning areas. Booker is an original co-sponsor of the bill.
New oil and gas lease sales are managed through a Five-Year Plan established by the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Ocean and Land Management. In January 2021, President Biden issued an Executive Order that paused new leases for onshore and offshore oil and gas drilling on federal land and water. The reintroduction of Pallone’s bill coincides with a bipartisan effort across the country to permanently ban offshore drilling in U.S. federal waters in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Eastern Gulf of Mexico.
In honor of Earth Day, Pallone and Booker also highlighted the need to continue to fight the climate crisis and protect marine mammals and their habitats. Greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels are increasing the temperature of the oceans, forcing marine mammals’ prey to move closer to shore and shipping lanes near the Ports of New York and New Jersey and leaving them more susceptible to vessel strikes. Whales are also dying from entanglements as part of active fishing operations or abandoned to become marine pollution.
“Climate change is the biggest threat to our ocean habitats and allowing offshore oil and gas exploration only increases that threat. As the world transitions to a clean economy, there’s simply no logical reason to put our coastal communities and ocean ecosystems at risk with unnecessary and dangerous drilling off our coast that could drench our oceans and marine wildlife in oil and increase emissions. That’s exactly why we must continue to transition to a clean economy and develop renewable energy sources,” said Pallone. “I’m looking forward to continuing our progress in the fight against the climate crisis, including enacting a permanent ban on offshore drilling.”
“As the impacts of climate change become ever more devastating to our coastal communities and Big Oil rakes in record profits on the backs of hardworking families, the last thing we need is another handout to the oil industry,” said Menendez. “The COAST Anti-Drilling Act protects our shore communities and draws a clear line in the sand—one we must never let Big Oil cross—by permanently banning drilling throughout the Atlantic. I look forward to working with Rep. Pallone and Sen. Booker, as well as my colleagues in the Sen
ate, to safeguard our coastal communities, marine ecosystems, the Shore economy, and protect our coast once and for all. From Cape May to Port Jersey and all along our Atlantic Coast, New Jersey residents depend on us to protect our Jersey shore.”
“The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is dedicated to the conservation, protection, and restoration of all natural resources, including our precious shoreline and the aquatic habitats, fish, and wildlife that rely upon the sound management of marine environments,” said State Commissioner of Environmental Protection Shawn M. LaTourette. “New Jersey is fortunate to have champions in Washington, D.C., like Congressman Pallone and Senator Booker, who advocate for sound environmental policies and the resources that state institutions like DEP need to ensure we best protect marine ecosystems and the thriving communities and local economies that depend on the good management of our coastal zone.”
“A healthy ocean and coast are fundamental to our planet’s health, the marine life they support and the well-being of our communities. Care for the ocean is not optional. We need to invest in managing the increasing demands and uses we make on the ocean. The actions called for by Senator Booker and Congressman Pallone are critical real-world solutions, and we applaud their leadership in advocating for them,” said Tim Dillingham, Executive Director, American Littoral Society.
“Offshore wind energy offers a clean, economical, beneficial opportunity to combat the climate crisis and an alternative to continuing to burn fossil fuels. We cannot ignore the fact that the impacts of climate change are disrupting species migration and holding patterns, posing serious risks to the long-term future of recreational fishing and the species we rely on,” said Capt. Paul Eidman, Anglers for Offshore Wind Power. “We need to consider all solutions, including the potential of harnessing clean energy in our oceans. Windfarms can be done right and serve as a solution for the long-term prosperity of the recreational fishing community and our ocean environment, provided strong environmental protections are in place throughout the development process.”
“Climate change is the greatest threat to New Jersey – to our oceans, our communities, our wildlife, and our residents. Responsibly developed clean energy, including offshore wind, holds the key to protecting our environment for future generations. We will continue to follow the science and keep momentum towards a 21st century clean energy economy that will reduce air pollution, slow the warming of our oceans, create good, local jobs, and protect the Jersey Shore,” said Ed Potosnak, Executive Director, New Jersey LCV. “We are grateful New Jersey’s Congressional Democrats have asked for science to prevail, not politics. Elected leaders who really care about protecting marine life should address evidence-based threats by implementing vessel speed restrictions, eliminating abandoned commercial fishing gear, removing plastic garbage out of the water, and, of course, addressing climate change.”
“We face a choice – continue to rely on dirty fossil fuel power plants and offshore oil drilling – or expand clean, renewable energy sources. Climate change is the largest threat to our oceans and expanding offshore wind off the Jersey Shore can help to move us to a clean renewable energy future. More than 10 years after Hurricane Sandy ravaged the Shore, extreme weather from coastal and inland flooding, tornadoes and wildfires fueled by climate change is increasingly common across the Garden State. Offshore wind is our best strategy to reach our clean energy mandates and to reduce climate pollutants in line with climate scientists’ recommendations,” said Doug O’Malley, Director, Environment New Jersey. “Senator Booker and Congressman Pallone have been ocean and climate leaders for decades, and we are grateful for their leadership urging action to fight climate change and protect our oceans.”
“We thank Congressman Pallone and Senator Booker for stepping up to protect the health of our ocean, particularly marine wildlife that has been severely under threat due to the climate crisis. As the ocean warms due to climate change, many marine species are moving to new areas with more favorable conditions, putting them in closer contact with humans and increasing the number of whales dying from ship strikes and fishing,” said Anjuli Ramos-Busot, Director for the New Jersey Sierra Club. “Instead of unfairly blaming offshore wind to serve fossil fuel interests, we must pursue real solutions to protect marine wildlife such as finalizing strong vessel speed restrictions and curbing the impacts of climate change. One of the best ways we can fight climate change is through the equitable and safe development of renewable energy through our bedrock environmental laws and regulations.”
“Many factors, natural and human-caused, impact ecosystem health. Evidence-based decision making, which relies on scientific data and considers the entirety of factors contributing to observed or perceived impacts on the environment, is essential to furthering our understanding of the factors at play. Rutgers is at the forefront of coastal ocean research, and the data and expertise we provide will help decision makers develop off-shore wind in a responsible way,” said Josh T. Kohut Professor Marine and Coastal Sciences School of Environmental and Biological Sciences.
“The ocean needs life support because of the climate emergency. We can climb our way out of the emergency with solid science-based solutions combined with strong legislation, enforcement, and ending our use of fossil fuels. The COAST Anti-Drilling-Act will go a long way to help ban oil and gas drilling,” said Janet Tauro, Clean Water Action, NJ Board Chair. “Marine mammals are colliding head-on with the climate emergency, which is depleting food sources, entrapping them in fishing gear, and making them more likely to encounter vessels. A record number of shipping containers, over 9.5 million, moved through the NY/NJ ports in 2022, making it the busiest in the nation. Crossing those lanes is like trying to cross a busy midtown Manhattan street at rush hour without a traffic light.”
“Plastics are impacting our ocean in so many ways, including the extraction of the raw materials, the production and transportation of the plastic itself, and improper disposal in our oceans,” said John Weber, Mid Atlantic Regional Manager of the Surfrider Foundation. “It’s ending up in the bodies of wild animals, like whales, dolphins and turtles, or entangling them in plastic fishing gear. This is why laws like the one New Jersey passed banning the single use plastics that are the easiest to replace are needed all over the country and the world.”
An oil spill off the Atlantic Coast would be devastating to coastal communities in New Jersey and up and down the Atlantic. The Jersey Shore is home to over $700 billion in coastal properties, and the tourism industry generates almost half a million jobs, nearly ten percent of New Jersey’s entire workforce. New Jersey’s commercial fishing industry generates over $7.9 billion annually supporting over 50,000 jobs.