WASHINGTON, DC — U.S. Rep. Chris Smith said he is confident the federal government's plan to open oil and gas drilling off New Jersey's coast will soon be “off the table.”

The 4th District Republican congressman was part of a New Jersey delegation that met on February 27 with Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to express its opposition to permit oil and gas exploration and drilling in the waters off New Jersey.

They urged Zinke to exempt New Jersey from the list of states for the proposed offshore drilling expansion — as he did for Florida because of its “unique” status in its economic reliance upon coastal tourism.

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“We made it quite clear to the secretary that we, as representatives of the people of New Jersey, are united in our unequivocal opposition to this proposal,” said Smith, whose district includes Belmar and Lake Como. “We must protect our pristine beaches and coastal waters, and the tourism and fishing industries that rely upon them; one spill could be a disaster for our state. After our conversation with the secretary, I am confident that the proposal will soon be off the table for New Jersey.”

Since the Trump administration announced its plan to expand offshore drilling to New Jersey, there has been a groundswell of opposition to the proposal from officials throughout the state — on all levels of government.

Locally, the Belmar Borough Council at its February 6 meeting officially went on the record with its own resolution opposing the plan.

Last August, the state Department of Environmental Protection submitted formal comments to the Federal Register affirming the state’s “steadfast opposition to natural gas and oil exploration in Atlantic Ocean waters off New Jersey.”

Under the proposed National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas and Leasing Program, large underwater tracts on the ocean’s outer continental shelf from Maine to Florida — an area that was not included in previous initiatives — would be open for leasing for oil and natural gas exploration from 2019 to 2024

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