Governor sends letter to feds opposing offshore oil and gas exploration

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Interior today opposing offshore oil and gas exploration, arguing it would have devastating effects on New Jersey’s economy and threaten the state’s critical resources.

“New Jersey is committed to protecting its natural resources and realizing a new clean energy future through support of smart energy policy and renewable energy sources,” Murphy wrote to U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. “We will not accept outdated, dangerous approaches that promote reliance on fossil fuels and result in more environmental degradation.”

Murphy also submitted an analysis by the Department of Environmental Protection that supports his opposition to the program. The analysis characterizes the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s reasoning as flawed and calls for the region to be excluded from the National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing program. The analysis stresses the importance of clean water and healthy coastal ecosystems to the state’s $44 billion tourism economy. State officials also argue that oil and gas exploration and development would undermine decades of work to restore, protect and enhance coastal environments for recreation and wildlife.

“New Jersey’s 130-mile coastline is the pride and joy of our state and has long been vital to New Jersey’s economy,” Murphy wrote, adding that tourism and fishing support hundreds of thousands of jobs. “New Jersey cannot afford to expose its treasured coastal communities to the threats posed by DOI’s proposal,” he wrote.

Murphy said the waters off New Jersey provide important migration routes for federally endangered marine mammals and sea turtles, as well as federally protected deep-sea coral communities along the edge of the continental shelf. The ecologically sensitive Delaware Bay provides spawning grounds for the world’s largest population of horseshoe crabs and serves as a critical migratory stop for threatened and endangered shorebirds such as the red knot.

The submission of the letter and analysis follows a decision by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to propose an Outer Continental Oil and Gas leasing notice.

According to the governor’s office, the DEP analysis found numerous examples of the use of faulty economic data and lack of information on potential impacts from large spills from oil rigs, such as the one that occurred during the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Such spills off New Jersey would not only eventually impact ocean coastal zones and habitats, but would have serious, long-term consequences on wildlife and habitats of the Delaware Bay, officials said.

The DEP analysis  also found an inadequate scientific basis for various options outlined in the proposed program areas along the edge of the continental shelf that are important to tuna, whales, sea turtles and other marine life.  The analysis argues that the federal government did not adequately address impacts exploration techniques would have on fish, sea turtles and marine mammals.