New Jersey has joined a multistate lawsuit aimed at blocking the Trump administration’s plan to open the continental shelf to offshore drilling. One of its leaders has represented the people of Long Branch and this congressional district since 1988. Congressman Frank Pallone joins Correspondent Michael Hill.
Hill: Congressman, thank you very much for joining us. We’re sitting here with an extraordinary view of Long Branch. This is the view up and down the Jersey Shore. I know that you’ve been out there on the front line talking about banning drilling off the coast. The administration, as Mary Alice said, wants to go ahead with some of those plans. What’s the risk to the Jersey Shore, to this incredible view?
Pallone: Well, it’s a terrible risk. I was first elected in 1988 and that was the year when we had all the garbage and medical waste wash up on the shore and it was completely closed down. Billions of dollars in tourism income was lost, all the jobs, everything. You would come down here and there would be nobody here. So, that’s what would happen. If you had a spill, which is inevitable if you have offshore drilling, it would completely destroy the tourism industry, which is a multibillion dollar industry, hundreds of thousands of jobs. It’s the most important industry in the state of New Jersey, and it is at risk because just last week the Trump administration issued a rule to basically regulate emissions from offshore drilling. So that gives me a strong indication that they’d like to move ahead with offshore drilling and we just have to be vigilant in opposition to it.
Hill: We know that Gov. Murphy opposes that. How much leverage does the state have? How much strength does it have to go to court to stop the federal government from that offshore drilling?
Pallone: Thankfully, Gov. Murphy and the state Legislature passed a law that said that they would not allow the use of any kind of industrial equipment for drilling and they would ban it in state waters, which is out to three miles. So if the federal government tried to drill outside, beyond the three miles, they would not be able to bring the oil ashore, so that would essentially prohibit it. But now what is happening in Congress is the Republicans are thinking about moving a bill that would fine a state like New Jersey that does that, and might take us to court and say that you can’t do that, you have to allow the drilling. This is definitely something we have to be wary of.
Hill: Tourism is a $45 billion industry in New Jersey. How much of the shore does that make up, and how much of is in your district alone?
Pallone: Well, I think you have to understand Michael, and you probably do, that if you have a spill anywhere along the Atlantic Coast it will impact the entire Atlantic Coast, it’s ones ecosystem. When we had the BP spill off of Louisiana, the oil went all the way to South Texas, all the west coast of Florida. There was a fear it even might come around the east coast of Florida. So there’s no such thing that you may drill in Georgia, or you’re going to drill in New Jersey, it will impact the entire Atlantic Coast.
Hill: How many jobs are related to tourism, would you say, in your district alone?
Pallone: I don’t know the exact numbers, but it’s hundreds of thousands of people. It actually is the number one industry in the state of New Jersey right now. You’re just talking about killing the coastal economy completely with this, that’s what happened in Louisiana and Florida and Texas and the other state after the BP. It was years before you were able to use the beaches again.
Hill: Congressman you’ve been on the front line too talking about robocalls and I wanted to talk to you about that because where I live, I don’t know what it is, it’s like we’re a magnet for robocalls. And it just seems that it’s just more and more every week. What’s being done about this, and why are we getting those? I thought we addressed this issue long ago.
Pallone: Well, what happened Michael was that the federal courts recently issued a ruling that basically threw out the definition of the robocalls that would be prohibited when you said you don’t want to receive them. So we have to re-enact a federal law that redefines it because more and more robocalls will now go out because the companies that do it don’t have any fear after that court decision. So, I have legislation that would basically redefine robocalls, prohibit it again, make it clear that even if you had authorized it before that you can change your mind and stop them. Just the last thing I want to mention, when I announced this legislation I went to this company in South Amboy in my district that has this device called a robokiller. It was the funniest thing you’ve ever seen. You pay something like $29 a year and when someone calls you this thing has a robot that answers the call and keeps them on the line for 10 minutes to 20 minutes and eventually stops the robocallers. There are various ways of addressing this, but my legislation is one of them.
Hill: Do you have the support in Congress for this, and if this passes is this going to the White House for signing?
Pallone: Well, it’s in committee and I think we can get bipartisan support, but we’re just starting. So it’s too early for me to say whether it can pass year or not. But I think you probably know that President Trump has never vetoed any legislation, so when somebody says to me, ‘well Trump signed your bill,’ I say, ‘Trump signs any bill.’