President Obama has reversed his decision to open up parts of the Atlantic seaboard for offshore drilling. His original plan was to auction off drilling rights in as many as 104 million acres of the mid- and south-Atlantic in 2021. This decision comes after years of protest and outcry from environmentalists and coastal communities including the Sierra Club and Senator Bob Menendez, Senator Cory Booker and Congressman Frank Pallone here in New Jersey. Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, released the following statement:
“Big Oil had targeted our coasts for drilling and now President Obama said “No!” This is a victory for clean energy and for the health of our ocean and coastal communities. If they could drill off Virginia, they may have come to drill in New Jersey next. This decision will protect our coasts for the next five years, and hopefully longer. The Obama Administration has listened to the concerns of the people and decided not to open up the Atlantic Ocean for dangerous offshore drilling. Offshore drilling could cause serious and lasting environmental harm and could ruin our tourism industry. We want to thank President Obama for making the right decision in order to protect our marine ecosystems, community safety, and tourism efforts by cancelling offshore drilling in the Atlantic.
“The decision to not drill for oil in the Atlantic will help protect communities and ecosystems from dangerous oil spills. Despite opposing offshore drilling in New Jersey, Governor Christie did not oppose it in Virginia or the rest of the Atlantic. However, even a spill off of Virginia would find its way to our shores. The oil would be taken to refineries in our area, further putting us at risk. One quart of oil pollutes a million gallons of water. Coastal states surrounding the Gulf of Mexico are still impacted by the 170 million gallon spill from BP’s Deepwater Horizon oilrig explosion in 2010. We don’t want the same thing to happen here on the East Coast. This proposal is shortsighted because of the potential for a little bit of oil could jeopardize our coast, our multi-billion dollar fishing industry, and our tourism industry.
“This is also great news for our economy who no longer needs to fear oil spills. Sierra Club’s Don’t Rig Our Coastal Economy report found that New Jersey’s coastal tourism industry supports nearly 500,000 jobs, and one out of every six of the state’s jobs are linked in some form to its shoreline. Visits to the area generate $16.6 billion in wages and add $5.5 billion to the state’s tax coffers. During the summer of 1988 when medical waste washed up onto a 50-mile stretch of New Jersey’s shore, tourism dropped off significantly and the area directly lost at least $1 billion in revenue. An oil spill off the coast of New Jersey could have triggered an even more dramatic decline in tourism.
“President Obama’s decision will also lessen the needs for more pipelines being built off our coasts to bring the oil to New Jersey refineries as well. Reducing pipelines will help us grow our green energy economy. We cannot drill ourselves into energy independence. We have to explore new technologies for wind and wave power and remove obstacles that stand in the way of clean energy. Now that we don’t have to worry about Atlantic offshore drilling, we can instead focus on promoting safe and renewable energy like wind power. The federal government has auctioned leases of parcels off New Jersey’s coast for the development of wind turbines. Now those developers won’t have to be threatened by offshore drilling.
“We applaud the Obama Administration for realizing that offshore drilling is not worth the risk. By rescinding their plan to drill, they have made an important move to protect our environmentally sensitive coasts. This decision would not have happened without the strong support against drilling by Senator Bob Menendez, Senator Cory Booker and Congressman Frank Pallone. This decision will allow us to focus instead on building wind mills off our coasts and moving away from dirty fossil fuels and oil rigs. Even though we won today, we still have to be vigilant. If the “drill baby drill” crowd wins the next election, we could be under threat again. For the last six years the people stood together to fight against offshore drilling and the Obama Administration heard what we had to say. Hopefully now the only oil we have to worry about on our beaches is sun-tan oil!”