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Source: The Southampton Press

State Lawmakers Join Call To Bring Offshore Drilling Hearings To Long Island


Posted: February 12, 2018
Originally Published: February 9, 2018

State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. and State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle are joining other local lawmakers in the call to hold hearings on Long Island concerning potential drilling off its coast.

Currently, there is only one hearing scheduled by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, or BOEM, a division of the U.S. Department of the Interior, and that will take place on Thursday, February 15, in Albany.

The hearing concerns Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke’s National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program that would open up nearly all of the country’s coasts to oil and natural gas drilling. Of the 47 potential lease sales for drilling sites, two are located in the North Atlantic region which encompasses Long Island.

In a joint statement, Mr. Thiele and Mr. LaValle made the case for Long Island’s unique stake in the program’s future: “As New York State representatives of Suffolk County, which is surrounded by water on three sides, we are requesting the BOEM hold public hearings on Long Island,” they wrote. “Our communities rely heavily upon our clean waters for recreation, the economy and tourism.

“The water is the fabric that connects and binds all of Long Island,” they continued.

In an email sent on Friday, Mr. Thiele was more blunt in his criticism over the federal government’s decision to hold a single meeting on the subject—and to schedule it in the state’s capital.

“Holding a public hearing on this plan in Albany will deny many Long Islanders the right to be heard,” he wrote. “There is no sea breeze off the Hudson River.”

The concern of the two state lawmakers is echoed on federal levels as well. On Thursday, U.S. Representative Lee Zeldin joined with his fellow congress members—including New York Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer—in sending a letter to Mr. Zinke that highlights the environmental risks of opening Long Island’s coast to drilling.

“New oil and gas development raises the possibility of a disastrous oil spill and increases risk of exposure to toxic chemicals and metals used in offshore drilling operations,” the letter reads. “These threats to New Yorkers’ coastal industries, public health, and unique natural environments are unacceptable and should not be ignored.”

Many other leaders have previously expressed their opposition to the program, including Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine, East Hampton Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc and Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming, along with environmental groups including Citizens Campaign for the Environment, the Nature Conservancy on Long Island and the Sierra Club of Long Island.