Conservative New Jersey Congressman Scott Garrett (R-5th) was the only legislator in the Garden State to support a federal bill that will allow for drilling near the coast of the Jersey Shore should the Senate approves the measure.
Republicans in the House pushed H.R. 1231 vote over the top on Friday, clearing 243 votes to 179 opposed. Should the bill be passed by the Senate, it would allow for off-shore drilling to be expanded in Virginia, parts of the West Coast, Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico as well. The measure represents a reversal of President Obama's 2010 moratorium against off-shore drilling, passed in the wake of the disastrous B.P. oil spill.
New Jersey was the notable outlier in the otherwise largely partisan vote, as five Republicans joined seven Democratic colleagues in voting down the bill. Some even introduced amendments and requesting the elimination of Jersey Shore drill options.
Representative Jon Runyan (R-3rd), who has publicly supported off-shore drilling in the past, said despite his personal views he made a campaign promise to his constituents to let their voices be heard.
Runyan, who said he "caught heat" for his stance last month, offered an amendment to the bill that would have allowed states to "opt out" of proposed leasing of its shores, provided a state referendum not support the drilling.
"Unfortunately, my amendment was not allowed by the House Committee on Rules, and therefore prevented from consideration on the House floor," he explained in a news release. "Today’s legislation failed to give New Jersey its voice in the process, and for that reason it failed to earn my vote."
Democratic Rep. Frank Pallone (D-6th) too suffered a similar fate when his amendment to declare the Atlantic coastline off limits for five years was rejected by the committee.
"This is a dangerous plan that plays roulette with the ocean waters and beaches," said Pallone in a statement shortly before the bill passed, which legislators expected.
"The oil industry and their Republican allies are ignoring the lessons that should have been learned from the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico," he said, adding that the Jersey Shore is "an invaluable resource" and he is concerned what effect an oil spill could have on a region so heavily dependent on tourism.
Pallone was the prime sponsor of legislation that aimed to prohibit all new off-shore drilling leases on federal waters.
The sixth-district Dem called the B.P. spill "one of the worst environmental and economic disasters in history" and opined that none of the pro-drilling bills Congressional Republicans proposed "include any of the recommendations by the independent commission that investigated the spill."
The Congress-approved bill failed to impress Rush Holt (D-12) as well, who called it "reckless legislation" in rocky Atlantic waters.
Republican lawmakers have introduced the bill to mitigate the rising level of gasoline prices across the country, which some experts estimate could reach $5.00 a gallon over the summer. Holt, however, argued in a statement that other experts aren't so sure of that.
"Despite the significant economic and environmental dangers of offshore drilling, the Republican bill would do nothing to help families who are struggling with high gas prices," he said in a statement. "Independent experts predict that the bill would make no difference to prices for at least 10 years – at which point, prices would shift by only three cents per gallon."
Garrett did not issue a statement on his rationale for his 'yes' vote, the only one in the state. Five state Republicans opposed the measure, which now moves to the Democrat-controlled Senate.
U.S. Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) have both condemned the bill they'll soon be voting on. The pair of lawmakers say they will also reintroduce the Clean Ocean and Safe Tourism (COAST) Act to ban drilling off the Atlantic Coast from North Carolina to Maine.