TRENTON – Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal joined a multi-state coalition of Attorneys General today in new comments opposing the federal government’s proposed expansion of offshore drilling to New Jersey and other coastal states, and calling on the Interior Department to honor its past practice of not imposing such activity on states that don’t want it.
Participating states, including New Jersey, have threatened litigation to stop the expansion plan, which would endanger public safety and threaten harm to coastal natural resources vital to their economies. New Jersey’s 130-mile coastline generated more than $44 billion in coastal tourism revenue in 2016, supporting more than 838,000 jobs and generating $5.6 billion in federal taxes.
“States are in the best position to determine if any benefits associated with offshore drilling are worth the risk and inevitable harms that come with such activity,” said Attorney General Grewal. “Federal government officials should know we will take them to court if they refuse to let us decide this important issue for ourselves – just as they did when granting Florida an exemption to offshore drilling.”
In comments today to Kelly Hammerle, manager of the U.S. Interior Department’s National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Draft Proposed Program, Grewal and the other Attorneys General note the federal government has acknowledged that oil spills are “statistically expected to occur” with offshore drilling, and express concerns about the public safety, environmental damage and economic harm such spills would visit upon pristine coastlines.
“Off shore oil production all but guarantees that oil spills … will sully the waters off the coasts of our states,” the comments explain, referencing such past disasters as the Exxon Valdez and Deepwater Horizon spills. “The fact that catastrophic spills are low-probability does not make the risk acceptable to us.”
Moreover, the comments note, the federal government has a well-established practice of acceding to state opposition where offshore drilling is concerned – as evidenced by removal of two California areas and a North Atlantic area from a proposed offshore drilling plan for 2012-2017, and removal of Florida from the current Interior Department proposal within days of the plan’s public announcement.
“With the Department having established a practice of not imposing offshore drilling on states that do not want it, that approach should guide the agency’s decision-making now. Settled principles of administrative law demand as much,” clarifies the multi-state comments.
Today’s comments reflect the second recent overture by coastal states rejecting the Interior Department’s proposal, which has been described as the single largest expansion of oil and gas exploration leasing ever proposed by the federal government.
First, a letter sent in February pointed out that offshore drilling threatens “more than three million jobs across America” and poses a danger to the “unique ecologies” in states like New Jersey. The letter called for termination of the new offshore drilling effort in its entirety, and threatened “appropriate legal avenues” to stop it.
In a New-Jersey-specific segment of that letter, Attorney General Grewal said oil and gas exploration and drilling in the North-or-Mid-Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf would have “devastating effects” on New Jersey’s vital coastal resources, “which New Jersey nearly lost just five years ago to Superstorm Sandy.”
Grewal concluded, “New Jersey cannot afford to expose its treasured coastal communities to the threats” posed by the proposed expansion plan.”
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