Rep. Lee Zeldin was joined by state and local officials, environmentalists and business leaders at the L.I. Aquarium Jan. 26 to call on the federal government to withdraw its plan to allow drilling for oil and gas off the coast of Long Island. File photo: Denise Civiletti

Local officials, business and environmental leaders came together at the Long Island Aquarium in Riverhead this morning to oppose the Trump administration’s plan to open more than 90 percent of the outer continental shelf for oil and gas exploration, including waters off the coast of Long Island.

The plan, announced Jan. 4, drew almost immediate bipartisan condemnation from governors of coastal states around the nation, as well as from federal and state legislators.

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), who organized today’s press conference, was among the members of the House of Representatives who came out in opposition to the controversial plan last week.

Zeldin said in the last Congress he and Secretary of the Department of the Interior Ryan Zinke, then a member of the House of Representatives, worked closely together and became good friends. He called on Zinke to remove Long Island’s coastal waters from the plan.

“There’s bipartisan support up and down the East Coast to take the entire Atlantic coast off the proposal,” Zeldin said.

Zeldin also called on the interior department to extend the public comment period, which now ends on March 9. [Submit a comment online.]

He also called on Zinke to schedule a public hearing on the proposal on Long Island. Currently the only hearing scheduled to take place in New York is to be held in Albany on Feb. 15.

“Protecting our environment goes hand in hand with protecting our economy,” Zeldin said today. “The recent proposal by the Department of Interior would have negative consequences on the Long Island environment, the Long Island economy and our way of life.”

Zeldin said if the administration goes through with the plan over the objections of members of Congress and local officials, he believes there is enough bipartisan opposition in the House of Representatives to prevent the implementation of the plan by refusing appropriations needed to accomplish it.

Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) called the plan “a horrible idea.” He also called for the federal government to hold a hearing on Long Island. “There’s no sea breeze in Albany,” Thiele said. “It’s a long way from the ocean and a long way from the people who care about this.” He thanked the congressman for “making sure we get heard.”

“Investment in fossil fuel instead of renewable energy sends a terrible message to the next generation,” County Legislator Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue) added.

“We should be moving away from fossil fuel and to renewable energy,” Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R-Center Moriches) said. “This is not a partisan issue. We have one world and we will lose that world if we don’t pay attention.”

Southold Supervisor Scott Russell (R-Cutchogue) said that the proposal threatens the Long Island Sound as well as the oceans because it “relies heavily on the Long Island Sound as a transport route.”

“That undoes years of collaboration between federal, state and local partners for restoring the Long Island Sound,” Russell said.

“The Long Island economy has everything to do with water,” Riverhead Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith (D-Laurel) said.

Kristen Jarnagin, president and CEO of Discover Long Island, the official tourism agency for Long Island, said Long Island tourism is a $5.6 billion industry.

“We need to stop this risky scheme,” declared Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment. “This risky scheme will take our oceans and turn them over to the oil industry and forever threaten our ecosystems.”

“Oil and water don’t mix,” Esposito said. “It is a recipe for disaster.” She, too, called on the federal government to join state and local entities in embracing renewable energy. “The answer, my friends, is blowing in the wind,” Esposito said, quoting the famous Bob Dylan song. “We have to stop being fossil fools.”

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Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.