- Associated Press - Sunday, January 31, 2016

ASBURY PARK, N.J. (AP) - Officials from several New Jersey shore towns joined with some members of the state’s congressional delegation Sunday to oppose federal plans that would allow oil and gas drilling in the Atlantic Ocean.

Environmental and tourism groups also took part in the rally on the Asbury Park boardwalk, which drew a crowd of about 200.

U.S. Sens. Bob Menendez and Cory Booker and Rep. Frank Pallone, all Democrats, were among those who cited a potential for “catastrophic” oil spills that could cause economic and environmental harm at the Jersey shore and other areas along the East Coast.

“The Jersey Shore is one of our most precious natural resources, providing enjoyment for generations of New Jersey families and visitors alike. An oil spill threatens everything we hold dear about the Shore_and we have to do everything in our power to prevent it from becoming a reality,” Menendez said. “Let’s call Atlantic drilling what it is: another handout to the oil industry.”

The three federal legislators called on the Obama administration to end its plans to allow oil production off the coast of Virginia, the Carolinas and Georgia. They cited the massive 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that caused long-term marine and coastal damage in several Gulf states.

“We’ve being very vigilant on this issue,” Booker said after the rally. “I feel very hopeful that we will get (the administration) to not do this. There’s no need to drill in the Atlantic right now.”

The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is expected to release a revised plan in the coming weeks.

“I urge the administration to think twice before allowing Big Oil to endanger New Jersey’s environmental and economic well-being,” Pallone said.

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