Washington, DC: 1.5.2018 – Following Secretary of the Interior Zinke’s proposal to open over 90 percent of the U.S. outer continental shelf to oil and gas exploration and development—including off the coast of New Jersey—Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ) stated his serious concern and opposition to the move.

    “I am unalterably opposed to this proposal,” said Rep. Smith, a long-time opponent of New Jersey offshore drilling. “Opening the Atlantic coast to oil and gas exploration poses serious risks to the local marine wildlife, the fish populations which our commercial fishermen rely upon for their livelihood, and seriously threatens our pristine state beaches that we enjoy and rely upon for economic activity in New Jersey,” said Smith, who represents thriving shore communities in Ocean and Monmouth counties.

     “We can and must assert our energy independence in ways that do not compromise our coastal waters and beaches and put other industries at risk.”

The U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke announced on Thursday the proposal for the National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program (National OCS Program) from 2019-2024, which would include opening up over 90 percent of the U.S. outer continental shelf for oil and gas exploration and development.

In 2015, the Obama Administration had proposed to open areas of the Atlantic Coast to seismic testing and oil and gas drilling, but eventually denied the applications after Smith and other members of Congress publicly opposed the proposal.

Smith has in the past warned of the prospects for oil drilling and seismic testing off the coast of New Jersey, and the problems they could pose for the environment and the tourism industry, as well as the commercial fishing industry. Seismic testing to discover oil and gas reserves, which involves firing blasts of air on the ocean floor 100,000 times more intense than a jet engine, could pose serious risks for marine life and for the fish populations that local fishermen rely upon for their livelihood. Even a minor oil spill off the state’s coast could result in oil washing directly onshore due to the prevailing ocean currents; such a disaster could cripple the state’s beach tourism and commercial fishing industries, which generate billions of dollars in sales and state revenue per year.

Other states and localities on the U.S. East Coast have come out in public opposition to offshore drilling; 500,000 fishing families, over 41,000 businesses, and over 100 municipalities and 1,200 elected officials have all expressed their opposition to seismic airgun blasting and/or offshore drilling in the Atlantic.

In June of 2017, Smith joined other members of the New Jersey Delegation in reiterating their opposition to a proposal for seismic testing off the coast of New Jersey, this time made by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) which had proposed to issue Incidental Harassment Authorization (IHA) permits to companies looking to conduct seismic testing.

On August 17 Smith wrote Secretary Zinke about the National OCS Program, stating “I urge you not to open the Atlantic to development and drilling.”

He also is a co-sponsor of HR 728, a bill introduced by Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ) that would bar the Administration from issuing any permits or licenses for oil and gas extraction within 125 miles of the New Jersey coast.