Saturday, May 7, 2011

Did Long Time Ocean Defenders Jump Ship? Citizen Action Needed!

Did Long Time Ocean Defenders Jump Ship?

On Cinco de Mayo (May 5), Congress ignored the importance of coastal tourism, fishing, and the lessons of the BP Oil disaster by passing a bill that will force the federal government to sell ocean areas within 75 miles of the New Jersey coast for drilling within one year or no later than June 2012.  While this defeat to our ocean is serious, a greater defeat was how the New Jersey delegation voted.    

For the first time in recent memory, the New Jersey delegation split on party lines against protecting our ocean, with the Republicans voting to allow drilling within 75 miles from the Jersey coast.  We are stunned; this is a bitter loss for New Jersey’s longtime, bi-partisan unity for the ocean and must not stand.

Many of you urged the Congressional delegations of New York and New Jersey to oppose this bill (and two others slated for final votes next week), and to stand together in their opposition of offshore drilling policies that threaten the ocean, coastal economies, and the NY/NJ Clean Ocean Zone.  The bill similarly forces the sale of many tracts of ocean in the Gulf of Mexico.  Along the Atlantic Coast, two Republicans (Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Florida-18th) and Walter Jones (NC-3rd)) voted to protect the ocean from dangerous and unnecessary oil and gas drilling, while five Democrats voted with Big Oil (Representatives Barrow and Bishop of Georgia, McIntyre and Shuler of North Carolina, and Owens of New York).

The House of Representatives heard debate and passed H.R. 1230:

·        H.R. 1230:  “Restarting American Offshore Leasing Now Act,” (a.k.a. “Mandate Drilling Off Virginia’s Coast, Immediately, No Matter What Act”) a bill that specifically targets several areas, including “Sale 220” (an area within 75 miles of the New Jersey Shore), for immediate drilling approval, with no new environmental review or public input.

Many congressional officials, citizens, and the media seem under a spell of ignorance or amnesia perpetuated by Big Oil that drilling off our coast will reduce prices at the pump—it’s a lie. If Congress really wants to lower oil prices, why don’t they prohibit the ever-escalating exporting of US produced petroleum products?  Right before passing H.R. 1230, Congress rejected an amendment that would have prohibited the export of any oil and gas produced in these areas.

This vote endangers our robust coastal economies and healthy ocean ecosystems. Moreover, the support for this bill is based on the false premise that offshore drilling will lead to immediate relief in the price at the pump.

It’s not over.  Next week, the House will debate and vote on bills that would weaken oversight of drilling activities and opens all areas of the Atlantic ocean for drilling.

·        H.R. 1229:  “Putting the Gulf Back to Work Act,” (a.k.a. “No Legal Review or Oversight of Big Oil Act”) a bill that imposes rushed, arbitrary permitting deadlines and would prevent application of key public-interest and environmental laws by putting up roadblocks to judicial and administrative review of drilling decisions.
·        H.R. 1231:  “Reversing President Obama’s Offshore Moratorium Act,” (a.k.a. “Lease At Least Half Of All Our Oceans and Put All Of The Atlantic On the Table Act”) a bill that uses agency reports generated under the last administration (that have since been proven to be inaccurate and out-of-date estimates of the recoverability of oil and gas in the Atlantic) to open the Atlantic Ocean to oil and gas exploration and production activities.

We urge you to call elected officials in our region who voted against the ocean and urge them to come back as leaders of ocean protection:

Here are the list of long-time New Jersey’s ocean defenders who voted to open an area off Virginia’s coast to oil drilling by June 2012, putting our shore at risk.

You can call the main Capitol Switchboard 202-224-3121 and ask for any office. HELP BRING OUR OCEAN DEFENDERS BACK! PLEASE CALL:

Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-11)
Frank LoBiondo (R-2)
Jon Runyan (R-3)
Chris Smith (R-4)
Leonard Lance (R-7)

Members of the New York Delegation that also voted against the ocean:
Grimm, Michael            (R-13)
Hayworth, Nan (R-19)
Gibson, Chris (R-20)
Owens, Bill (D-23)
Hanna, Richard (R-24)
Buerkle, Ann Marie (R-25)
Reed, Tom (R-29)

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