TRENTON – Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal has joined a multi-state coalition opposing the federal government’s expansion of offshore drilling, signing on to a letter that highlights the ways oil and gas exploration off the New Jersey coast would have “devastating” economic and environmental effects. Governor Phil Murphy welcomed the action.
“I am proud to stand with Attorney General Grewal as he takes this step to oppose what would be a disastrous decision by the federal government to expand offshore drilling at the Jersey Shore,” Governor Murphy said. “Offshore drilling off our coastline, or anywhere on the Atlantic Coast, puts our state at increased risk of oil spill or accident-- a risk New Jersey’s environment and economy simply cannot afford. We cannot allow the federal government’s short-sighted vision of profit to put our future in jeopardy.”
Writing to U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, the coalition of Attorneys General expressed “deep concerns” and strong opposition to the Interior Department’s National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Draft Proposed Program. The program has been described as the single largest expansion of oil and gas exploration leasing ever proposed by the federal government.
The letter points out that offshore drilling threatens “more than three million jobs across America” and poses a danger to the “unique ecologies” in states like New Jersey. The letter calls for termination of the new offshore drilling plan in its entirety.
Attorney General Grewal included language in the letter to draw attention to the stark impacts the action would have on New Jersey. New Jersey’s 130-mile coastline, the letter explains, is “the pride and joy of its residents, and has long been vital to New Jersey’s economy,” generating more than $44 million in coastal tourism revenue in 2016, supporting more than 838,000 jobs and generating $5.6 billion in federal taxes.
The New Jersey coast is also host to “a thriving and nationally prominent fishing industry” the letter notes, and is home to an ecosystem of “global importance.”
“Oil and gas exploration and drilling in the North-or-Mid-Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf would have devastating effects on these economically and environmentally vital resources, which New Jersey nearly lost just five years ago to Superstorm Sandy,” the letter states. “New Jersey cannot afford to expose its treasured coastal communities to the threats posed by the Draft Proposed Program.”
In addition to protesting the offshore drilling expansion proposal on environmental and economic grounds, the multi-state letter raises a collective eyebrow over the exemption of Florida from the expanded drilling program on January 9 -- less than one week after it was introduced.
“The (Interior) Department has not described in any detail the reasoning for the apparent exemption granted to waters off the coast of Florida, nor for the failure to exempt areas off the coasts of other states,” the letter notes. “Our states are on the record voicing significant concerns to the Department about oil and gas leasing. We are left to speculate about the basis for your choice, which you reached in such a short amount of time, outside of the legally mandated administrative process, and with minimal opportunity for public input.”
The letter vows that North Carolina, New Jersey and the other participating states will vigorously oppose the offshore drilling initiative “using appropriate legal avenues” if the Interior Department continues with its plan to massively expand offshore drilling in the Atlantic and Pacific outer continental shelf areas.