A coordinated legislative attack on offshore drilling in the Atlantic. President Obama’s proposed selling leases to drill off the coasts of Virginia, North and South Carolina and Georgia. But on the fifth anniversary of the catastrophic Deepwater Horizon oil spill that despoiled the Gulf of Mexico, New Jersey lawmakers in Washington submitted bills that would ban it south of our shores. One of the bill’s sponsors, Representative Frank Pallone (D-6), told NJTV News Anchor Mary Alice Williams that proposals for offshore drilling continue because of recommendations that were made after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
“Well the problem is that in the aftermath of Deepwater Horizon, there was a bipartisan commission in Congress that basically made recommendations about what could be done to prevent this type of deep water spill again,” said Pallone. “But none of the commission’s recommendations were ever adopted and so there’s really no reason why something couldn’t happen again. And as you know in the Atlantic, most of this drilling would actually be in waters at least as deep, if not deeper than the Deepwater Horizon spill. So the danger still exists.”
Pallone said that oil slicks move thousands of miles and that is what happened with the Deepwater Horizon spill. He said the spill occurred off the coast of Louisiana but the oil washed ashore off the coast of Florida and around the coast on the Atlantic side because of the Gulf Stream. Pallone said that the same thing would happen if offshore drilling occurs off the coast of the Atlantic.
“The distance from Virginia to New Jersey is less than across the Gulf from Louisiana to Florida, so it wouldn’t matter even if this occurred in Georgia. You’d start seeing these tar balls and oil pollution on the shores of New Jersey,” said Pallone.
Pallone had asked the Department of Interior to come to New Jersey and get public input on the plan. The hearing took place in Atlantic City back in March. According to Pallone, many showed up to the hearing — mostly people who oppose the drilling. He also said that people can continue to send in their comments and that they are hoping that the South Atlantic portion is dropped from the five-year plan the Obama administration has put forward.
Some lawmakers in southern states have proposed receiving royalties on oil or natural gas found off the coast of their states. Pallone said that he is not in favor of that because it would just encourage lawmakers to want to do the drilling.
“Right now some legislators in the southern states are for banning drilling off the coast of the Atlantic, some are for it,” Pallone said. “I don’t want to encourage it by saying that they’re going to get royalties. On our bill — I have the bill in the House, Sen. [Bob] Menendez has the bill in the Senate. You know we have a number of other congressmen and senators on board including some from Virginia.”
Pallone said that in his opinion, there is no technology that exists to make drilling safe. He also said that when drilling starts to go further out, the possibility of a spill is much greater.
Whether the bill is likely to pass, Pallone said lawmakers have a two-pronged approach. “First is the bill that we would try to get passed in Congress, but then there’s also this five-year plan which has several opportunities to drop the South Atlantic and that’s what happened before. Five years ago, the president proposed drilling in the South Atlantic and then when the BP or the Deepwater Horizon spill occurred, he took it out of the plan,” he said. “So there’s an opportunity at the end of this year to take it out of the plan. There’ll be several others over the next couple of years before the five-year plan is put into effect. So we’ll try both of these approaches.”