U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew on Thursday introduced a bipartisan bill in the House of Representatives to permanently ban oil and gas leasing off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

He worked with Rep. Joe Cunningham, a South Carolina Democrat, on the Coastal and Marine Economies Protection Act, according to Van Drew’s office.

Van Drew, D-2nd, called offshore oil and gas drilling a direct threat to coastal economies, which he said are heavily dependent on healthy ocean ecosystems. The 2nd District includes the Atlantic Ocean communities of South Jersey from Ocean to Cape May counties and the Delaware bayshore.

The U.S. Department of Interior is expected to include the Atlantic and Pacific coasts in its next five-year Oil and Gas Leasing Plan, which would authorize oil drilling off those coasts.

“Our local economy is dependent on fishing, tourism and wildlife watching — the bottom line is offshore oil and gas drilling isn’t worth the risk,” said Van Drew. “It is time to get rid of the harmful and dangerous practice of offshore drilling once and for all.”

In 2018 as a state senator, Van Drew introduced and passed into law a bill that prohibited offshore oil and natural gas exploration, development and production in state waters off New Jersey.

He also has introduced legislation in the House to ban seismic testing in the Atlantic Ocean, which is used to find oil and gas deposits offshore and is damaging to marine wildlife.

Also this week, a bill to continue funding the U.S. Coast Guard during a federal government shutdown passed out of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Wednesday.

The Pay Our Coast Guard Parity Act of 2019 (H.R. 367) is almost identical to Van Drew’s H.R. 350, which he introduced Jan. 8 amid the longest government shutdown in U.S. history. Van Drew said he supports the bill that passed from committee.

“It is unacceptable for the men and women who protect us to be treated like second-class citizens over partisan bickering,” said Van Drew. “I hope that Congress does its most basic job and funds the government, but in the event of another shutdown, the Pay Our Coast Guard Parity Act ensures that the U.S. Coast Guard will continue to be funded.”

During the Dec. 22-Jan. 25 shutdown, the Coast Guard was the only branch of the armed forces that was not funded, because it is part of the Department of Homeland Security and not the Department of Defense. As a result, Coast Guard members — including those stationed at Training Center Cape May and Air Station Atlantic City — were furloughed or were required to work without pay for more than a month, harming Coast Guard families and national security, Van Drew said.

Another bill that passed out of the committee that would affect the Coast Guard would require a report on the vulnerabilities of Coast Guard installations and requirements resulting from climate change over the next 20 years, Van Drew’s office said.

Contact: 609-272-7219 mpost@pressofac.com Twitter @MichelleBPost

Staff Writer

In my first job after college got paid to read the New York Times and summarize articles for an early online data base. First reporting job was with The Daily Record in Parsippany. I have also worked in nonprofits, and have been with The Press since 1990.

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