N.J. governor signs bill prohibiting offshore drilling

N.J. Gov. Phil Murphy speaks about the drilling ban bill signing on the Point Pleasant Beach boardwalk Friday. (Governor Phil Murphy/Facebook)

N.J. Gov. Phil Murphy speaks about the drilling ban bill signing on the Point Pleasant Beach boardwalk Friday. (Governor Phil Murphy/Facebook)

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has signed a bill prohibiting oil and natural gas drilling in state waters, as well as preventing infrastructure like pipelines that could support drilling in more distant federal waters.

It is one of numerous coastal states using state-level laws to try to thwart President Donald Trump’s proposal to allow drilling in federal waters more than three miles offshore along most of the United States’ coastline.

Standing on the Point Pleasant Beach boardwalk joined by residents, environmentalists, and lawmakers, the Democratic governor signed the bill on the anniversary of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, warning that a similar catastrophe could happen anywhere.

“These are not theoretical, abstract potentials,” he said. “They happen, and they happen with an alarming frequency.”

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Tim Dillingham, executive director of the American Littoral Society, agrees with Murphy’s assessment.

“We applaud Governor Phil Murphy for signing this legislation to provide much needed safeguards against the specter of oil drills and spills off our beaches,” he said in a prepared statement. “New Jersey’s coast and ocean are at the heart of our state, our communities and our shore economies. An oil spill would be catastrophic to all of these. There is simply too much at risk to allow for offshore oil and gas drilling.

Cindy Zipf, executive director of Clean Ocean Action, has previously called the offshore drilling plan “reckless and offensive.”

Even before this became law, the Trump administration had acknowledged it might not push for drilling in the Mid-Atlantic and other areas.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said earlier this month at a New Jersey event that expanded offshore drilling faces strong opposition and questionable industry demand in many areas.

“There is a lot of opposition, particularly off the East Coast and the West Coast, on oil and gas,” he said.

States including New York, California, South Carolina, and Rhode Island have introduced similar bills, Washington state is considering one, and Maryland introduced a bill imposing liability on anyone who causes a spill.

In January, then Gov. Chris Christie reaffirmed his opposition to the Trump administration proposal.

But President Trump has previously said the plan “allows responsible development of offshore areas that will bring revenue to our treasury and jobs to our workers.”

Thomas Pyle, president of the Institute for Energy Research, an industry trade group, told NJ Spotlight last year that restricting drilling would impact “the poor and middle class, who would benefit most from greater access to affordable, reliable energy.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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