NEWARK, N.J. – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez penned the following op-ed in yesterday’s Sunday edition of the Newark Star-Ledger: The Jersey Shore is in the crosshairs of an upcoming battle that threatens the security of our coastal communities, the health of our beaches, the livelihoods of our families, and the strength of our vibrant fishing industry and small businesses. President Obama has the power to stop it. The next president and congress have vowed to undo all the progress we have made to protect our environment over the past eight years.
President-elect Trump has claimed that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese, and turned to climate deniers, oil industry lobbyists and insiders to help guide his energy and environmental policies.
If you live by or depend on the ocean for your livelihood, you better hope it was just talk to get elected. I don’t want to wait to find out.
Right now, we have an opportunity to protect our coasts and leave a legacy for our shore that cannot be undone. Utilizing Obama’s authority under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, the president has the ability to permanently ban offshore oil and gas drilling in areas where it’s not already occurring – including the Atlantic and Arctic oceans.
Drilling for oil is a risk-reward proposition— all of the risk is put on the backs of our shore communities, and all of the reward goes to Big Oil. And for New Jersey those risks are substantial.
An oil spill in the Atlantic would devastate our tourism industry, which generates $38 billion a year and supports nearly half a million jobs — nearly 10 percent of the state’s workforce. It would destroy one of the largest saltwater recreational fishing industries in the nation and jeopardize its over 50,000 jobs.
An oil spill would sink the values of more than $700 billion of coastal properties — homes and small businesses.
Residents along the Jersey Shore are some of the most hard-working, resilient people I’ve ever met, and many are still recovering from Superstorm Sandy. The last thing they need is the threat of an oil spill wiping out their businesses, their hard work, and their ability to provide for their families.
Legislation I authored with U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone (D-6th Dist.), called the Clean Ocean and Safe Tourism (COAST) Anti-Drilling Act, would permanently prohibit drilling in the Atlantic. Support has grown with a record number of senators — including Cory Booker (D-N.J.)—cosponsoring the legislation in this congress, and over 1,100 New Jerseyans adding their names as citizen cosponsors.
In March, local communities, fishermen, small businesses, environmental advocates, and elected officials up and down the eastern seaboard sent a clear message to the oil industry that our shores are not for sale when we successfully convinced the Obama administration to remove the Atlantic Ocean from the next five-year oil and gas leasing plan.
But our victory is temporary, and the next administration casts considerable uncertainty on the future of our coast and our environment.
A temporary ban on drilling in the Atlantic isn’t enough because Big Oil will stop at nothing to feed its insatiable thirst for more profit, even if it puts our economy and environment in peril. Just recently, it won a decades-long battle to repeal a law banning export of American crude oil, regardless of the consequences on U.S. jobs and energy independence.
A number of Senate colleagues have joined me in urging the Obama administration to act before he leaves office to protect the Atlantic Ocean and the Jersey Shore from the changing whims of future administrations and congresses who may kowtow to a powerful oil lobby.
To me, the decision on Atlantic drilling is a simple question of values. I value the generations of families who spend their vacations on the Jersey Shore. I value the small businesses and fishermen who have built and sustained a thriving shore economy against all odds in the wake of Sandy. I value having clean coastal waters, which are home to diverse and rich ecosystems. I value the commitment New Jerseyans have for a clean energy future. Drilling in the Atlantic is antithetical to every one of these values.
A permanent drilling ban in the Atlantic would strengthen the Obama administration’s commitment to rejecting the dirty fossil fuels of the past, and moving the U.S. toward a clean energy economy. President Obama should act before it’s too late.