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NJ Lawmakers Fight Efforts in Washington to Lift Offshore Drilling Moratorium

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Location: Belmar, NJ


NJ LAWMAKERS FIGHT EFFORTS IN WASHINGTON TO LIFT OFFSHORE DRILLING MORATORIUM

With President Bush and Senator McCain now in favor of opening our coasts to offshore drilling and Republicans in Congress currently working to overturn a 26 year offshore drilling moratorium, U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), U.S. Sens. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Gov. Jon Corzine (D-NJ) today stressed the need for Congress to pass legislation that would permanently extend the moratorium on oil and gas drilling off the Jersey Shore.

The COAST (Clean Ocean and Safe Tourism) Anti-Drilling Act was introduced in Congress last year by Pallone, Lautenberg and Menendez. The legislation would permanently extend an existing moratorium on oil and gas drilling off the Jersey Shore and all North and Mid-Atlantic states from Maine to North Carolina. It would prohibit the U.S. Department of Interior from issuing leases for exploration, development or production of oil, natural gas or any other mineral in the Mid and North Atlantic.

The moratorium on leasing activities has been in effect since 1982 and is included annually in Interior Department appropriations acts. While President Clinton extended the moratorium through 2012, President Bush has consistently explored ways to end it. Congressional Republicans are now stepping up their assault to lift the moratorium with false claims that such action would help reduce record gas prices at the pump.

When the Bush administration proposed drilling off the Virginia coastline, its own Minerals Management Service (MMS) estimated that the recoverable oil in the Mid-Atlantic Planning Area would only last between 17 and 41 days and recoverable gas an additional three months. These minimal resources would also not actually make it to the market for at least another 10 years, as it takes time for oil and gas companies to explore and then construct the equipment to extract the resources from the earth.

The four New Jersey lawmakers said it would be shortsighted to put our beaches, our fishing and our tourism economy at risk for such minimal amounts of oil and gas. Tourism is one of New Jersey's largest industries. It brings in more than $5.5 billion in tax revenues, provides jobs to more than 500,000 people and generates more than $16.6 billion in wages.

"The Bush-McCain plan is a gift to the oil companies that endangers the economic and environmental health of the Jersey Shore and our entire state," Lautenberg said. "The Bush-McCain drilling scheme chooses Big Oil over American consumers and does nothing to immediately reduce gas prices. While we have offered real solutions to bring relief at the pump—like combating oil market speculation and price gouging and taking on the OPEC cartel—the Bush-McCain Republicans, acting on behalf of the oil companies, have blocked our efforts."

"Unfortunately, the Bush-McCain drilling plan doesn't include a time machine that we can use to jump to the year 2017, when we might finally see the first drop of oil out of our coastline," Menendez said. "They want to make it sound as if we can run a pipeline from the ocean floor straight into our gas tanks, but it's really a plan that won't have any effect on gas prices for a decade and even then will only amount to a handful of pennies. This is why we have led the defeat of four separate attempts in the Senate to open up the coastline to drilling and why we are championing legislation to permanently ban drilling along our coastline. This is why I have signed onto Senate legislation that would press the oil companies to utilize the 68 million acres of unused land already leased to them by the American taxpayer. We are still working to pass Senate legislation that will crack down on speculation that artificially raises gas prices while investing in the renewable energy we need for the future of this economy and this planet."

"Ending the moratorium on offshore drilling is not the answer to lowering prices at the pump," Pallone said. "If Washington Republicans were serious about providing real relief to consumers, they would join our efforts to force Big Oil to drill where they already have leases, invest in renewable energies that are already bringing down prices at the pump by about 50-cents a gallon, and punish price gougers. Unfortunately, the only solution Republicans have come up with is more drilling--- the same failed policy that helped produced these record prices in the first place."

"Drilling for oil and gas off the Jersey Shore is a bad idea," Corzine said. "Our world-renowned coastline is the lifeblood of our economy and a fragile environmental treasure. In many respects, it shapes our way of life, and we will fight any attempt to jeopardize it. The Bush-McCain team would do well to remember that true leadership isn't about making easy choices; it's about making the right choices."

President Bush and Washington Republicans want to give away more public resources to the very same oil companies that are sitting on 68 million acres of federal lands they have already leased but not drilled.

According to the Interior Department, there are 7,740 active leases in the outer continental shelf but only 1,655 are actually in production. While four times more natural gas is available in areas already open to drilling than in waters protected by the current Congressional moratorium, the Interior Department found that the oil industry is using only 18-percent of what it already has access to.


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