President Donald Trump signed an executive order today to allow exploration in new areas of the Atlantic and Arctic oceans for offshore drilling. The order will instruct the Department of the Interior to review the 2017-2022 Outer Continental Oil and Gas leasing program in both the Arctic and the Atlantic Oceans. According to Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, the process will take two years. Trump will also order a review of marine monuments and issue additional offshore drilling regulations. The Obama Administration tried to protect areas of the U.S. Artic and Atlantic Ocean with a little known 1953 law. Obama, acting under his authority designated by Section 12a of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, has permanently protected 115 million acres of the Arctic Ocean, excluding only 2.9 million acres which have previously been leased near Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. In the Atlantic Ocean, Obama protected 3.8 million acres, stretching from Massachusetts to Maryland. However, all of this could be at risk under Trump’s plans.
“Today Donald Trump in his reckless attempt to side with Big Oil and Gas has thrown our coast under the bus. He is clearly more concerned about corporate polluters and pollution than protecting our coast from the devastating impacts of an oil spill. His dangerous and greedy actions will seriously threaten our $38 billion coastal economy, destroy our ecosystem and fisheries, while harming people who live along the coast. Not only is he going to open up areas for offshore drilling, he is also eliminating safety rules to protect us from spills,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “As Trump marks his 100th day in office, he has continued his attack on our environment. Offshore drilling will lead to increased climate impacts, while polluting our air and waterways. The oil would be taken to refineries in our area, further putting us at risk. We must stand up to Trump and the fossil fools in Washington. We will tell Trump ‘Oil wells do not end well.’”
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 trigger an even more dramatic decline in tourism.
“Last year we had the biggest victory in 40 years when the Obama Administration blocked offshore drilling. Now Donald Trump is working to undo these protections. What is even worse is that the oil and gas being drilled for could be shipped to Europe or Asian. That means the only oil we will see is the oil that will wash up on our beaches from a spill. That is why Sierra Club will challenge any attempt to drill off our coast. We will use the science from Trump’s offshore drilling exploration against him and make sure no oil rigs end up on our coast. We will tell him the only oil we want to see off our coast is Coopertone,” said Jeff Tittel. “Drilling up to the Maryland boarder will put oil wells 100 miles from our coast. Drilling anywhere in the Mid-Atlantic would directly put our coasts at risk. Even a spill off of Virginia would find its way to our shores. One quart of oil pollutes a million gallons of water. This is really 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.”
Department of Interior who has already come out in opposition to pending Obama Administration moves to reform the federal energy leasing program. He also expressed opposition to keeping Montana’s coal reserves in the ground- which are the largest in the nation. Rep. Zinke has supported increasing coal mining and oil and gas exploration. We are very concerned that Rep. Zinke will exacerbate drilling, fracking, and mining on public lands without looking at the impact on public health and climate change.
“Drilling in the mid-Atlantic is part of Trump’s plans to increase dirty fuels at the expense of public health and the environment. The industries Trump is allowing to explore are not going to spent millions of dollars for research without a guarantee they are going to drill. This could also necessitate more pipelines being built off our coast to bring the oil to New Jersey refineries as well. Not only does this put our coast at risk, but it undermines renewable energy and growing our green energy economy,” said Jeff Tittel. “If they drill off our coast they would also be taking that oil to South Jersey or Bayway refineries. Pipelines and oil tankers would also put our coast at risk. If they drill in Virginia, they will bring the oil by pipeline to New Jersey that threatens the Pinelands. Offshore drilling is not worth the risk when we can be investing in renewable and offshore wind. The choice is ours whether we want wind mills off our coast or oil rigs. We shouldn’t be fossil foolish with our coasts. We need to say no to off shore drilling. Instead we want windmills and other renewable energy sources.”
Instead of offshore drilling, we need safe and renewable energy like wind power. The federal government has auctioned leases of parcels off New Jersey’s coast for the development of offshore wind. Now these developers will have to be threatened by offshore drilling. Senators Markey and Menendez are circulating offshore drilling letter and legislation to Department of Interior to stop Trumps plan. The letter and legislation are focused on stopping a redo of the 2017-2022 5 Year Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program. Senator Cory Booker is a signator on the letter.
“We have a choice between windmills off our coasts and oil rigs. We choose wind! Instead of listening to the public who opposes offshore drilling, Trump is continuing the fossil foolishness of the past. We need to stand up to continue to protect our coasts because one quart of oil pollutes a million gallons of water so this is a serious threat. We have to explore new technologies for wind and wave power and remove obstacles that stand in the way of clean energy. We should be focusing on promoting safe and renewable energy like wind power and not opening up the Atlantic to drilling,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “We thank Senator Menendez, Senator Booker, and Congressman Pallone for their continued support to block offshore drilling, but now we need all of our representatives to stand up against Trump’s plans. That is why we are bringing hundreds of people from New Jersey on buses to the People’s Climate March to demand clean air, clean water, and clean energy over dirty fossil fuels. Our Coastal Economy Trumps Drilling!”
Contact: Jeff Tittel, NJ Sierra Club, 609-558-9100