New Jersey senators, congressmen denounce White House Atlantic Ocean oil drilling proposal

IndustriesAssociated Press

New Jersey's U.S. senators and two congressmen have denounced a White House draft proposal that would authorize drilling in the Atlantic Ocean.

Sens. Cory Booker and Robert Menendez and Rep. Frank Pallone warned Tuesday that the environmental consequences of drilling for oil along the Eastern Seaboard would not be isolated only to the areas closest to the drilling.

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In a separate announcement, Rep. Bill Pascrell said he also opposed the draft proposal and that the possible risks outweigh the benefits.

President Barack Obama's proposal calls for auctioning areas more than 50 miles off Virginia, North and South Carolina, and Georgia to oil companies no earlier than 2021.

"In addition to serious economic concerns, offshore oil drilling threatens permanent and devastating degradation to our environment and natural resources," Booker, Menendez and Pallone said in their statement.

All four Democratic lawmakers invoked the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill, saying an incident anywhere along the coast would damage beaches, fisheries and marine life.

"We learned hard lessons in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon tragedy — offshore drilling poses a substantial risk of economic and environmental devastation for our shoreline communities," Booker, Menendez and Pallone said. "This latest plan, however, ignores that reality."

They also called on Obama to remove the Atlantic Coast from any drilling plans.

The administration announced its proposal, which covers possible leases from 2017-2022, on Tuesday. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell called the draft "a balanced proposal" and said it could also protect certain areas from development as well.