Bipartisan legislation to ban offshore drilling in state waters and to prohibit infrastructure there from supporting drilling in federal waters off New Jersey, was approved 37-0 on Monday by the state Senate.
“This is a back-door way of blocking the offshore drilling that would be allowed by the federal action,” said co-sponsor Sen. Jeff Van Drew, D-Cape May, Cumberland, Atlantic. “We control the first 3 miles at the state level, so we will use that authority to try to hinder or block drilling along the Jersey coast, which is vital for the fishing industry.”
President Donald Trump has proposed opening up drilling in federal waters along the Atlantic Coast. State waters run to three miles out, and federal waters from three to 200 miles out.
The Shore Tourism and Ocean Protection (STOP) from Offshore Oil and Gas Act (S-258/A-839) had already passed the Assembly and now goes to Gov. Phil Murphy’s desk. Murphy, an opponent of offshore drilling in the Atlantic, is expected to sign it.
Co-sponsor Sen. Chris Brown, R-Atlantic, said protecting the environment is not a Republican or Democrat issue.
“All of our Atlantic County families, retirees and our local economy depend on us protecting our beaches and waterways,” Brown said. “It simply makes sense to preserve our $44 billion tourism economy and our commercial and recreational fisheries for our children and grandchildren.”
It would prohibit offshore drilling in state waters and ban the leasing of tidal or submerged lands in state waters for oil or natural gas production, exploration or development.
It would also prohibit the Department of Environmental Protection from issuing any permits and approvals for the development of offshore drilling facilities, said Brown, who has launched an online petition to oppose the federal plan to drill off the Atlantic Coast.
Brown’s petition to stop offshore drilling can be signed at senatenj.com/nodrilling/.
“Not only would it prohibit drilling in state waters but also stop them from bringing in oil drilled in federal waters into our state,” said New Jersey Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel, a strong supporter of the bill. “It will also help fight pipelines from cutting through the state by preventing oil from landing on our coasts.”
The bill would not allow companies drilling for oil or gas in federal waters to build infrastructure to support their efforts in state waters, such as pipelines and docking facilities, supporters have said.
There is a strong bipartisan opposition to drilling in the Atlantic Ocean by New Jersey legislators, who fear an oil spill would harm the state’s fishing and tourism industries.
New Jersey’s fishing industry supports approximately 50,000 jobs, while the Jersey Shore tourism industry is worth $38 billion annually, state Democrats said.
The bill is a response to Trump’s America-First Offshore Energy Strategy, signed in April 2017, which encourages oil and natural gas extraction off the Atlantic Coast.