(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly members Bruce Land, Bob Andrzejczak, Vincent Mazzeo and Nicholas Chiaravalloti to prohibit offshore oil or natural gas exploration, development and production in state waters was signed into law on Friday.
The sponsors introduced the legislation last session in response to Executive Order No. 13795 entitled “Implementing as America-First Offshore Energy Strategy” which President Trump signed on April 28, 2017. The executive order encourages oil and natural gas production off the Atlantic coast.
“Opening up the Atlantic Ocean for offshore drilling would put at risk beaches, fisheries, and marine life all along the coast,” said Land (D-Cape May, Atlantic, Cumberland). “An oil spill, like the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil spill of 2010 in Louisiana, would damage the fragile marine ecosystem, kill off endangered and threatened species of fish and wildlife, and poison the many types of fish and shellfish that New Jersey residents and visitors eat and harvest for sale.”
“Offshore drilling would cause catastrophic and lasting economic harm to the Jersey Shore, which supports a tourism industry worth $38 billion annually, and reduce the quality of life for New Jersey’s residents,” said Andrzejczak (D-Cape May, Atlantic, Cumberland). “We should prohibit offshore drilling for oil and natural gas.”
“New Jersey’s fishing industry supports approximately 50,000 jobs while our Jersey shore tourism industry is worth $38 billion annually,” said Mazzeo (D-Atlantic). “Offshore drilling would unquestionably hurt the New Jersey shore economy as it relates to both the fishing and tourism industries.”
“In many ways, New Jersey’s shore communities and the local economy are still in the process of rebuilding after the tremendous damage sustained by Superstorm Sandy,” said Chiaravalloti (D-Hudson). “Offshore drilling must be prohibited if the state is to protect the progress made in rebuilding and the future of our shore economy.”
The new law (formerly bill A-839) prohibits offshore oil or natural gas exploration, development and production in state waters, and prohibits the leasing of tidal or submerged lands in state waters for the purposes of oil or natural gas exploration, development, or production.
Additionally, the law prohibits the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) from issuing any permits and approvals for any development associated with offshore drilling in state waters or outside state waters. It also prohibits the DEP from permitting, approving, or otherwise authorizing any oil or natural gas exploration, development, or production in state waters, and from developing, adopting, or endorsing any plans for the exploration, development, or production of oil and natural gas in state waters.
DEP is directed under the new law to implement its provisions through the enforceable policies of the state, including, but not limited to, any rules and regulations adopted pursuant to what is commonly referred to as the Waterfront Development Law. The DEP Commissioner is directed to submit the law, within 30 days after enactment, to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration under the provisions of the federal Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972 for incorporation into the enforceable policies of the approved state coastal management program.
Lastly, the new law requires the DEP to review any proposed oil or natural gas lease, license, permit, or plan for exploration, development, or production of oil and natural gas in the Atlantic region of the U.S. exclusive economic zone to determine if the proposal can reasonably be expected to affect state waters, particularly in terms of proximity to state waters or to the Gulf Stream south of state waters. Whenever such a review results in an affirmative finding, the commissioner is required to advise the governor thereof and take all actions necessary to initiate a consistency review under the federal Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972.
The bill received final legislative approval, 72-1, by the Assembly on April 12.