Shore congressman introduces legislation to ban offshore oil, gas projects

In this file photo taken Aug. 19, 2008, the Chevron Genesis Oil Rig Platform is seen in the Gulf of Mexico near New Orleans, La. (Mary Altaffer/AP Photo, file)

In this file photo taken Aug. 19, 2008, the Chevron Genesis Oil Rig Platform is seen in the Gulf of Mexico near New Orleans, La. (Mary Altaffer/AP Photo, file)

A freshman Shore congressman has introduced a bill to ban offshore drilling and seismic testing off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

The Coastal and Marine Economies Protection Act, proposed by Rep. Jeff Van Drew, a Democrat representing most of South Jersey and the southern half of the state’s coastal areas, and Rep. Joe Cunningham of South Carolina, would permanently ban oil and gas leasing.

“Our local economy is dependent on fishing, tourism and wildlife watching – the bottom line is offshore oil and gas drilling isn’t worth the risk,” Van Drew said. “It is time to get rid of the harmful and dangerous practice of offshore drilling once and for all.”

The congressman expects the Department of Interior to include both coasts in its next five-year Oil and Gas Leasing Program.

The National Marine Fisheries Service authorized permits late last year under the Marine Mammal Protection Act for five companies to use air guns for seismic surveys from Delaware to central Florida.

Environmentalists say blasting, which is used to find oil and gas formations deep under the ocean floor, can disturb or injure whales, sea turtles, and other marine life.

But in the August 22, 2014 edition of “Science Notes,” a newsletter published by the federal government’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, an agency representative wrote that in more than 30 years of air gun use, “there has been no documented scientific evidence of the noise […] adversely affecting marine animal populations or coastal communities.”

The newsletter notes that the government requires mitigation measures, including a required distance between surveys and marine mammals and closures for certain species.

New Jersey late last year joined a federal lawsuit with Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Virginia to block offshore seismic testing.

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