TRENTON – Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal today called on the U.S. Department of the Interior to fully explain its decision to exempt Florida from offshore drilling, while refusing to do the same for New Jersey. This follows on the heels of Attorney General Grewal’s promise to pursue “appropriate legal avenues” to prevent drilling off New Jersey’s treasured coastline.
Specifically, the Attorney General submitted a Freedom of Information Act request seeking all correspondence and internal documents related to any meetings and conversations that took place between the offices of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Florida Governor Rick Scott in the run-up to the announcement of Florida’s exemption from offshore drilling on January 9, 2018.
Attorney General Grewal’s action comes in the wake of media reports suggesting that a decision by the Trump Administration to exclude Florida from expanded offshore drilling was not eleventh hour, as officials involved portrayed it, but actually decided well in advance. Attorney General Grewal is demanding to know why Florida was granted such an exemption, when New Jersey was not.
“We are troubled by recent press reports suggesting that Florida may have received special treatment, and are taking action to discern the truth of the matter for ourselves,” said Attorney General Grewal. “To this day, the federal government has never offered a detailed explanation as to why it granted Florida’s request for an exemption from offshore drilling, while forging ahead with a plan to impose this unwanted activity on New Jersey and other states.”
“New Jersey has been as vocal in opposing this ill-advised and disruptive drilling plan as Florida or any other state, and with good reason – namely that our coastal resources are vital both economically and environmentally, and would suffer irreparable harm if offshore drilling were undertaken,” Grewal said.
Attorney General Grewal previously joined a multi-state coalition of Attorneys General in written comments opposing the federal government’s proposed expansion of offshore drilling, and calling on the Interior Department to honor its past practice of not imposing such activity on states that don’t want it. Indeed, offshore drilling would endanger public safety and threaten harm to coastal natural resources. 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 Grewal. “Federal government officials should know we will take them to court if they refuse to let us decide this important issue for ourselves.”
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