U.S. Senators Benjamin L. Cardin and Barbara A. Mikulski (Both D-MD), Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez (Both D-NJ), and Bill Nelson (D-FL), today joined together to applaud President Obama for his decision to cancel the planned lease sale that would have permitted new drilling for oil and gas off the Virginia Coast. The Senators were united in calling this a "good first step" but insisting that a permanent moratorium for the Atlantic Coast is still needed.
"I am extremely pleased that the President has responded to our consistent call to reverse the potentially devastating decision to allow drilling in the area known as Lease Sale 220. Drilling off the Virginia Coast carries tremendous risks and all for what is estimated at less than one week of the Nation's oil consumption and less than two weeks of the Nation's natural gas consumption," said Senator Cardin. "Today's announcement is a good start but we now need to finish the job and take Lease Sale 220 and the entire Atlantic Coast permanently off the table. The Mid-Atlantic is just too environmentally sensitive for drilling. And at a time of war it makes no sense to allow encroachment into vital areas used for our national defense."
"I always have been against offshore drilling and I always will be. I welcome the President's decision to cancel the drilling lease for Lease Sale 220 off the coast of Maryland and Virginia," Senator Mikulski said. "With the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico, we now know what a catastrophic oil spill looks like. We are heartened that the "top kill' is going as planned. Should it not work, I am calling upon BP to offer an international prize of $1 billion to plug the leak, allowing the best minds from around the world to develop a way to plug the leak today and keep it plugged tomorrow. We need answers. We are running out of time and we are running out of ideas. This spill calls for bold thinking. This is not the time for finger pointing or blame throwing. We need solutions. Louisiana needs solutions. The Gulf needs them. The world needs them."
"President Obama took an important step today to halt the most imminent environmental threat to the Atlantic coast. However, the danger will remain until drilling in the Atlantic is taken off the table altogether," Senator Lautenberg said. "BP's oil catastrophe in the Gulf is a wake-up call for our nation. Giving Big Oil more access to our nation's waters will only lead to more pollution, more lost jobs, and more damage to our economy. We need a permanent ban on drilling in the Atlantic, tightened regulations, and a real push to find clean energy alternatives to oil."
"New Jersey small businesses preparing for the beach season have no doubt wondered how they would survive if oil started washing up on the Jersey Shore," said Senator Menendez. "We can all breathe easier that our shore will not be put at risk from a nearby oil rig in the foreseeable future. The Jersey Shore is part of our lives, and for many New Jersey families, it is the source of their livelihoods. This action will protect us in the near term, but we ultimately need to go a number of steps further and ensure that the East Coast will never be subject to oil rigs. Now is the time to put our muscle behind finally transitioning from the fossil fuels of the past to the clean, limitless energy sources of the future."
On March 31st, President Obama announced that he planned to open the Atlantic Coast to oil and gas drilling in an area known as Lease Sale 220. This wedge-shaped area covers 2.9 million acres off the coast of Virginia. The western edge of Lease Sale 220 sits 50 miles due east of the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay and 60 miles from the Maryland border and Assateague Island National Seashore. Any significant spill in the Lease Sale 220 area, even one much smaller in scale than the disaster unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico, would have a catastrophic impact on states along the Atlantic coast, particularly Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, and New Jersey. A recent Department of Defense report also has shown that any oil and gas development activities within significant areas of the planned lease sale would be incompatible with military operations and exercises.