LETTER – Obama- No Drilling in Atlantic: Will it Last in Next Admin?

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Due to a large public outcry, the Obama Administration has rescinded their plan to allow areas in the Mid and South Atlantic coast to be opened for offshore oil and gas drilling. In their statement, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) Director Abigail Hopper said these areas are no longer part of the Offshore Oil and Gas Leasing Plan for 2017-2022. The announcement cites conflicts with commercial and military uses as well as public opposition for their reasons. Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, released the following statement:

It is great news that the Obama Administration has prevented drilling or exploration off the Atlantic Coast for the next five years. This happened because of public outcry against the plan. 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. 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. This decision to stop drilling in the Atlantic protects our marine ecosystems, community safety, and tourism efforts. This is great news for now but with the change in Administration, we’re not sure it will last.

“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. The proposal was 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.

“While this decision is a victory, we must remain vigilant. This is because with President-Elect Donald Trump we may be under threat again in the future. His energy plan includes blocking renewable energy and opening public lands and our coasts for offshore drilling. His transition team is stacked with gas and oil industry people and he doesn’t support renewable energy initiatives such as wind energy that could take the place of offshore drilling. This should be good for five years but will Trump circumvent the plan and side with the fossil fools in Washington?

“Protecting our coasts from oil spills is incredibly important for our economy. 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.

“We hope that 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 will allow us to focus instead on building wind mills off our coasts and moving away from dirty fossil fuels and oil rigs. For the last six years the people stood together to fight against offshore drilling and the Obama Administration heard what we had to say. We hope that the Trump Administration will stand by this five year plan and not open up our coasts to dirty and dangerous offshore drilling. We’ve been fighting this for 30 years and will continue fighting to protect our coasts.”

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