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Source: Southampton Patch

Public Hearing On Proposed Offshore Drilling Will Be Held On LI

How do you feel about the possibility of offshore drilling on Long Island?


Posted: February 28, 2018
Originally Published: February 26, 2018

WESTHAMPTON, NY — A public hearing will be held on Long Island to discuss President Donald Trump's administration's proposed program for offshore oil and gas leasing, Rep. Lee Zeldin said.

The date and time of that hearing has not yet been announced.

As New York's first public hearing was underway in Albany, Zeldin said he had a conversation with Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke; during the talk Zinke agreed to schedule a public hearing on Long Island.

"It is critical that federal regulators understand firsthand any negative impacts and hear directly from the local residents, business owners, and environmental stakeholders on Long Island, the area of New York it would affect most," Zeldin said. "On Long Island, our waterways are deeply connected to our way of life."

In a region where so many jobs and businesses depend on scenic beaches, parks, and clean water, protecting the environment goes hand in hand with protecting quality of life and the economy, Zeldin said.

The plan has sparked a wave of protest.

Earlier in the month, environmental advocates and elected officials raised their voices in opposition to the plan.

An executive order by President Trump, called the "America-First Offshore Energy Strategy," directs Zinke to review the five-year plan put in place by President Obama that bans drilling in parts of the Pacific, Atlantic and Arctic oceans. It also instructs Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to refrain from designating or expanding marine monuments and sanctuaries and to review all those that have been named over the past 10 years.

The goal is to expand offshore drilling for natural gas and oil.

A packed hearing in the William H. Rogers Building in Hauppauge included scores who turned out to voice opposition.

New York State Assembly Members Steve Englebright, Christine Pellegrino, and Anthony D'Urso hosted the hearing as an alternative to a public meeting to be convened by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management in Albany — far from the coastal residents most likely to be on the front lines of an oil spill disaster, organizers said in a release.

According to opponents, the administration has proposed the "most sweeping drilling plan of any administration, ever, with virtually all federal waters off all coastal states at risk"; it calls for nine lease sales for the Atlantic region, stretching from the Florida Straits to Maine, protestors said.

"Trump's polluters-first agenda is an oil industry dream that threatens the hundreds of thousands of New York jobs and billions of dollars that depend on clean oceans and abundant fish and wildlife," said Alison Chase, senior policy analyst for oceans at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

"New Yorkers are united in saying 'no' to this risky, dangerous scheme that will turn our oceans over to the oil companies and jeopardize our climate, coastlines and communities. Oil and water do not mix. Oil spills do not respect state boundaries, therefore, an oil spill anywhere along the Atlantic Coast can impact our beaches, tourism, marine life, and our way of life," said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment.

The risks presented by offshore drilling are never confined to a local area, and far exceed any economic benefits, Esposito added.

Added Brian Langloss, New York campaign organizer for Oceana: "After BP's 2010 Deepwater Horizon rig explosion, oil polluted shorelines from Texas to Florida, devastating coastal economies and tourism, as well as severely impacting wildlife like birds, dolphins, and endangered whales for generations to come. An equivalent disaster in the Atlantic could coat beaches from Savannah to Boston. Oil spills don't respect state lines and New Yorkers need to speak out loudly against this rash and illinformed plan to turn our beach towns into oil towns."

Rob DiGiovanni, founder and chief scientist of the Atlantic Marine Conservation Society, said that early on in his career, he was asked about the worst stranding he had ever seen, and he said it was those that could have been prevented.

"I worked with many organizations to respond to sea turtles affected by the BP oil spill, and saw firsthand the devastation of a preventable disaster. With the increased sightings of whales, dolphins, sharks and other marine life in the New York Bight, projects that once seemed to have a nominal impact on marine life could be significantly more detrimental today," he said.

Environmentalists added that even before drilling, the search for oil and gas deposits beneath the sea floor could wreak havoc on marine life and the jobs it supports.

"Ryan Zinke and Donald Trump are picking a fight they will not win," said Shay O'Reilly, organizing representative for the Sierra Club.

O'Reilly added that under the leadership of New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo, New York is establishing itself as a national leader on offshore wind, creating thousands of family-wage jobs and reducing the population's reliance on fossil fuels.

"Opening our coast to offshore drilling threatens progress on climate action and economic development, and New Yorkers are united in opposition to this plan," O'Reilly added.

And, said Aaron Virgin, vice president of the Group for the East End: "Drill, baby, drill is truly a step backward for U.S. energy policy that will no doubt benefit a few financially while leading to irreparable harm of the planet."