Trump proposes oil and gas drilling off the Atlantic coast

  • Susan Phillips
FILE - In this Jan. 31, 2016 file photo, Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez addresses a large rally in Asbury Park, N.J., opposing federal plans that would allow oil and gas drilling in the Atlantic Ocean. The Obama administration has moved to restrict access to offshore oil drilling leases in the Atlantic, as well as off Alaska. But President-elect Trump has said that he intends to open up offshore drilling, and environmentalists and coastal businesses say it could be the first major fault line that divides them from the new president.

Mel Evans / AP Photo File

FILE - In this Jan. 31, 2016 file photo, Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez addresses a large rally in Asbury Park, N.J., opposing federal plans that would allow oil and gas exploration in the Atlantic Ocean proposed under the Obama administration. Obama abandoned his plans. But Trump has now proposed opening up 90 percent of the nation's coastlines to drilling.

President Trump wants to open up almost all federal waters to offshore drilling, including waters along the coasts of New Jersey and Delaware. The draft proposal could lead to the largest lease sale ever. But the plan would face substantial opposition along the New Jersey and Delaware shorelines.

The proposal reverses course from previous administrations and would make more than 90 percent of the outer continental shelf available to oil and gas developers. Most of the lease sales would be in Alaska. But Trump also proposes to open up the Atlantic coast. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke says it’s part of Trump’s “America first” strategy.

“This is a clear difference between energy weakness and energy dominance,” Zinke said in a call to reporters Thursday. “And under President Trump we’re gonna become the strongest energy superpower.”

Zinke told reporters that state congressional delegations and governors will have significant input.

But both New Jersey’s current Governor, Chris Christie, and incoming Democrat Phil Murphy oppose the plan, along with the majority of New Jersey’s congressional delegation. Christie sent a letter to the Trump administration last August emphasizing his opposition to drilling, which he said could put the state’s $44 billion tourism industry at risk of an oil spill.

Delaware Governor John Carney has also condemned the proposal, telling the News Journal that drilling “would create the risk of a catastrophic spill or other event that would not only threaten our natural resources, but pose serious threats to Delaware’s economy.” All say offshore drilling threatens coastal eco-systems and puts the state’s tourism at risk of oil spills.

Environmentalists were quick to condemn the proposal. Jeff Tittle is director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.

“One rig having a major oil spill could jeopardize a $38 billion dollar a year tourism industry, destroy fisheries, and our fishing industries, and wreck havoc along our coast,” he said.

Correction: Gov. John Carney’s first name was incorrect in the original version of this story.

Up Next

Who will pay for Trump's plan to save coal?