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New Law Bans Offshore Oil and Gas Drilling in State Waters Off New Jersey’s Coast

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Gov. Phil Murphy has signed a ban on offshore oil and gas exploration and drilling off the immediate coast of New Jersey, where the state’s jurisdiction extends for three miles. Credits: Cathy Goetz
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TRENTON, NJ — Gov. Phil Murphy has signed into law a ban on offshore oil and gas exploration and drilling off the immediate coast of New Jersey.

The law, which drew nearly unanimous support from the New Jersey Legislature, counters the Trump administration’s plan to extend its offshore reach for oil and natural gas activities in ocean waters from Maine to Florida.

“Offshore drilling would be a disaster for our environment, our economy and our coastal communities,” said Murphy, during a press conference on the Point Pleasant Beach boardwalk on April 20. “The bipartisan legislation I am signing into law, on the eighth anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon Spill, will block oil companies from drilling in state waters. We simply cannot allow the danger of drilling off our coast. The societal, economic and environmental costs would be detrimental to the overall quality of life for our residents.”

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The law also prohibits the state Department of Environmental Protection from issuing any permits and approvals for the development of any facility or infrastructure related to offshore drilling within or outside of New Jersey waters.

However, the state’s jurisdiction in waters off the Jersey coast extends for only three miles. From there, the federal government holds authority over the ocean waters, including permitting oil and gas exploration and drilling.

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

According to the governor’s office, opening the Atlantic Ocean for offshore drilling would cause catastrophic and lasting economic harm to the state’s 130-mile shoreline, which supports a tourism industry worth $44 billion annually and attracts millions of visitors each year.

It also would put New Jersey’s beaches, fisheries, and marine life along the coast at great environmental risk. An incident like the Deep Water BP Horizon oil spill of 2010 in Louisiana could damage the fragile marine ecosystem, kill off endangered and threatened species of fish and wildlife, and poison the many types of fish and shellfish, impacting New Jersey’s billion-dollar commercial and recreational fishing industry, the governor’s office said in a press release.

State Sen. Robert Singer and Assemblymen Sean Kean and Edward Thompson — all of whom represent the 30th District, which includes Belmar and Lake Como — supported the legislation.

Under the federal government’s 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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