As a legislative tug of war over offshore drilling continues, a group of New Jersey Assembly Democrats has introduced a measure that opposes exploratory oil and gas drilling off the mid-Atlantic coast.

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The bill (ACR-227), co-sponsored by Assemblymen Bob Andrzejczak, Tim Eustace and Vince Mazzeo, must first be passed as a resolution in Trenton before heading to Washington, D.C., where it will be delivered to the president, the Secretary of the Interior, the director of the Bureau of Land Management, and every member of New Jersey's congressional delegation. The commissioner of New Jersey's Department of Environmental Protection would also receive a copy.

"With oil and natural gas reserves at an all-time high, and gasoline usage projected to drop significantly over the next few decades due to more energy-efficient automobiles, offshore drilling on the East Coast is not necessary," Eustace (D-Paramus) said in an emailed press release.

The Obama administration has proposed opening the door to drilling off Virginia and the Carolinas. Environmentalist Cindy Zipf, executive director of Clean Ocean Action, said that could jeopardize New Jersey's $40 billion tourism industry, as well as commercial and recreational fishing.

"Clearly, oil and water don't mix," Zipf said, calling the idea "insane."

She said ocean drilling would throw away all of the positive, clean ocean economy that New Jersey has been developing over the last 30 years.

"We've come a long way from the days of ocean dumping and the medical waste that used to wash up on our beaches, and we've seen what drilling in the ocean can do in both Alaska and in the Gulf of Mexico," Zipf said.

But Jim Benton, executive director of the New Jersey Petroleum Council, said his group supports finding new energy in the ocean.

"We believe additional acreage should be put up for consideration to evaluate whether or not it potentially has the type of resources that would be of benefit," Benton said.

He added that the drilling industry has demonstrated a successful track record, and so a process for reviewing the feasibility of such a practice would be "appropriate." Benton said that process could take up to six years to complete.

"We have testified at the recent federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management hearings in support of it," he said.

The sponsors of the legislation said the South Jersey shore is only 100 nautical miles from the president's proposed drilling area. Their measure has been referred to the Assembly's Environment and Solid Waste Committee.