POLITICS & GOVERNMENT

Trump administration rolls back Obama-era offshore drilling ban

BY Leah Mishkin, Correspondent |

A new Trump administration proposal has New Jersey officials fired up. The state’s top Democrats were present on Friday to speak out against offshore drilling.

“What’s happening here is a dream scenario for big oil and a nightmare for our shore communities,” said Sen. Bob Menendez.

“I’m personally prepared to carry this fight from the Governor’s Office,” said Governor-elect Phil Murphy.

On Thursday, the Trump administration proposed opening up more than 90 percent of the Outer Continental Shelf [OCS] for potential offshore drilling. The current program bans drilling in 94 percent of the OCS.

The U.S. secretary of the interior, Ryan Zinke, writes the five-year proposal “is important to our economy and energy security, and it provides billions of dollars to fund the conservation of our coastlines, public lands, and parks.” He added “just like mining, not all areas are appropriate for offshore drilling, and we will take that into consideration in the coming weeks.”

Others in support say the proposal is a way to finally attain energy independence.

“We have not looked as a country or as a state into what resource we can bring to this table. And we have known since the early 70s, during the administration of Brendan Byrne, that there is natural gas off our New Jersey shoreline,” said James Benton, executive director of the New Jersey Petroleum Council.

But in New Jersey, officials call the offshore drilling plan the greatest threat to the Jersey Shore, not only environmentally, but economically.

“Our tourism industry generates about $44 billion in economic activity directly and indirectly supporting nearly 10 percent, 10 percent, of the entire nation’s workforce. Our seafood industry supports over 31,000 jobs,” said Menendez. “Our state’s economic future hinges on a protected and pristine coastline.”

“Instead of catering to the profit margins of large oil companies, we should be supporting zero emission electric vehicles, investing in our public transportation systems and developing alternative clean energy sources — offshore wind, solar, and storage,” said First Lady to be Tammy Murphy.

One by one, environmentalists and politicians warned of potential oil spills.

“The whole eastern seaboard doesn’t even have one week’s of the world’s actual consumption of oil and natural gas. So how do you balance that and the potential for a spill, like the BP spill, for one week’s worth of oil and gas,” said Rep. Frank Pallone.

The issue will be up for debate at public hearings around the country. Those comments will serve as a guide to put together a proposed program.