Monday, April 30, 2012

Guest Blog: Elected Officials Decry Oil Exploration Plan

Senator Robert Menendez

"I write in opposition to the draft Environmental Impact Statement to allow seismic testing in the Mid Atlantic.  The only reason to allow seismic testing is to later allow oil drilling and we do not need oil spills on the Jersey Shore.

I find it interesting that part of the supposed justification to allow this testing is for renewable energy.  Doing seismic testing to site a wind turbine certainly seems like overkill to me unless the Department of Interior is aware of a wind turbine so large it needs to be anchored miles under the ocean floor. 

No, the real interest in seismic testing is clearly about allowing oil companies to try to drill off the East Coast, as close as Delaware waters.  Such drilling would threaten New Jersey’s $38 billion tourism industry (over half of which is based in our 4 coastal counties) and it will also threaten our robust commercial and recreational fishing industries.  When trash washed up on the New Jersey Shore in the 1980’s it cost our tourism industry $1 billion in revenue, and unlike trash, oil is difficult to clean up.  Over 20 years after the Exxon Valdez disaster, there is still 20,000 gallons of oil trapped in the beaches of Alaska.  We cannot and will not allow that to happen to the Jersey Shore.

Of course, seismic testing in and of itself is problematic.  Not only can it have significant impacts on marine mammals, but it has also been shown to negatively affect nearby fisheries.  Therefore, we should oppose seismic testing both to preserve our coastal economy and ecosystem now, as well as to protect it from potential oil spills in the future.  Thank you for your consideration."

Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. 

"Thank you for having this public hearing. I am in Washington, DC voting today and therefore could not appear personally. I am glad that the public has this opportunity to inform and shape how the Department of Interior proceeds on the important issue of offshore drilling.

I am totally opposed to offshore drilling off the Atlantic Coast. My opposition includes any preparatory steps including seismic testing in our waters off the Atlantic Coast. The time and resources that the Department of Interior is allocating to seismic testing could be better used on higher priorities that will allow us to move away from dirty fuels and faster achieve U.S. energy independence through renewables such as wind and solar power.

We all know how important New Jersey's beaches are, not only to residents of our state, but also for countless visitors. Our beaches are a tremendous resource for those who come here to enjoy them, and they are a huge economic engine for our state. They're the primary driver of a tourism economy that supports nearly 500,000 jobs and generates $38 billion in economic activities for the state each year.

Seismic testing is the first step in the direction of opening up the Atlantic coast to oil drilling. Most drilling off the Atlantic coast would be deepwater drilling just like Deepwater Horizon. Yet in the two years since the BP spill none of the proposals recommended by the National Commission on the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling have been put in place. There have been no improvements in worker safety regulations that will help ensure that another blow out will not cost 11 human lives. We need increased environmental review and planning that will ensure valuable fishing grounds and other ecological assets are not destroyed in the event of an oil leak.

The Department of Interior must halt this process and reconsider its priorities in ensuring American energy independence. The process you are embarking on will have severe consequences on our ocean environment, beaches, marine resources, and coastal economies in the short term and long term. Thank you for listening to my comments and I encourage you to fully consider the public’s input here today."

Assemblyman John F. McKeon
"The invasive procedure of blasting pulsating shocks of noise loud enough to penetrate deep into the sea bed and across vast ocean areas to search for possible oil and gas reserves, would degrade water quality and marine habitat, putting scores of sea life at risk and potentially destabilizing marine ecosystems;

Seismic exploration could also hurt commercial fisheries and prevent other clean ocean uses like surfing, boating, and other forms of coastal tourism, that would come to a halt when the surveys are ongoing;

The Jersey shore is the lifeblood of our state's more than $2.5 billion tourism and recreation industry, that generates about 72,000 jobs. Seismic surveys and offshore drilling in the Atlantic seaboard would put our coastal economy in peril;

We also cannot risk further contamination of our oceans from a possible oil spill. The worst environmental catastrophe in U.S. history caused by an explosion in a BP rig in the Gulf has shown us that oil and water are a deadly mix;

New Jersey's 127-mile coastline and high winds make our state a natural resource for harnessing an abundance of wind power. We should continue to tap into renewable and clean energy sources in the Outer Continental Shelf such as wind, water and currents, as an extension of our state's sound environmental and clean energy policies, that have the overwhelming mandate of its citizens;

Offshore drilling and oil exploration off the Atlantic Coast would reverse our progress in that direction. I urge President Obama to call off plans for seismic exploration and to place a permanent ban on offshore drilling in the Atlantic seaboard."

Assembly Utilities Chairman Upendra J. Chivukula

"The United States needs to cure its addiction to dirty fuels, especially since the process of extracting natural gas and oil exploration through offshore drilling, could hurt coastal economies in the Atlantic seaboard and has the inherent danger of an oil spill;

"The deep penetration seismic exploration planned by the Obama Administration in the 330,032 square mile area between Florida and the Delaware Bay that extends down to a depth of 18,468 feet, would involve sending air gun blasts and sound waves into the seabed over vast ocean areas in search of oil and natural gas reserves. It would also include electromagnetic surveys and deep-stratigraphic and shallow test drilling;

"For dolphins, fish, whales and sea turtles, the loud blasting and repeated sound waves from this process can cause temporary or permanent hearing impairment and loss, serious injury from tissue trauma and hemorrhaging, or even death. It could interfere with migration patterns and mask social communications used to find food or mates and to identify predators;

"The potential returns from offshore drilling do not justify the risk to the coastal economies in the Atlantic seaboard and to marine and human life;

"Drilling in the Atlantic Ocean will not affect gasoline prices. Studies show that we would only save at most a few cents per gallon and only 15-20 years after drilling starts. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (UEIA), there is only enough Atlantic Ocean oil to fuel the U.S. for 209 days and natural gas to last 14 months (at current consumption levels);

"We already have sufficient natural gas reserves to meet domestic needs and are projected to become a net exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG) in 2016, a net pipeline exporter in 2025, and an overall net exporter of natural gas in 2021. The natural gas share of electric power generation is projected to increase from 24 percent in 2010 to 27 percent in 2035. Domestic crude oil production is expected to grow by more than 20 percent over the coming decade, pushing production to 6.7 million barrels per day in 2020, a level not seen since 1994;

"Renewable sources of energy are expected to grow from 10 percent in 2010 to 16 percent by 2035. By increasing investment in clean energy and energy efficiency, we would reduce our addiction to dirty fuels, protect our water quality and marine habitat from potential degradation from offshore drilling and prevent the danger of an oil spill;

"I call on President Obama to continue the sound environmental and energy policies of his Administration to fast track a clean energy economy and to call off plans for seismic exploration and offshore drilling in the Atlantic Ocean, that could have a devastating impact on the Jersey shore."

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