State lawmakers will hold a public hearing on Long Island Feb. 14 on the federal government’s plan to allow offshore natural gas and oil exploration in waters off the coast of New York.
The State Assembly hearing on Long Island will take place the day before a public hearing scheduled in Albany by the federal Department of Interior on its controversial plan to allow oil and gas drilling in more than 90 percent of the nation’s outer continental shelf. The federal hearing at the Hilton Albany on Feb. 15 is the only hearing scheduled in New York, which was criticized by NY-01 Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), who on Friday called on Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to hold a hearing on Long Island.
A federal hearing is also scheduled in Hartford on Feb. 13. Written comments on the plan may be submitted online. Zeldin also called on Zinke to extend the deadline for written comments.
“The recent decision to expand offshore drilling by the Trump Administration has the potential to have a major impact on New York’s coast,” said Assemblyman Steve Englebright, chairman of the Assembly’s Environmental Conservation Committee and one member of a three-person panel that will hold the Long Island hearing.
“We need to hear from people and businesses about how this may impact them and it needs to happen in a location that is close to where the activity would occur,” said Englebright, Democrat of East Setauket who represents State Assembly District Four in Suffolk County.
“Drilling for oil off the coast of New York may impact water quality, marine life, recreational activities, land values, and coastal management,” Englebright said. “We also need to think about what potential oil spills would mean for the region. I look forward to hearing a full review from those who will be most impacted.”
The hearing will focus on how drilling for oil and gas will impact water quality, coastal management, fisheries and the potential for increased oil spills and pollution if such drilling were permitted, according to a press release from Englebright’s office.
The Assembly hearing will take place in the legislative auditorium of the William H. Rogers Building, 725 Veterans Memorial Highway, Smithtown at 10:30 a.m. on Feb. 14.
The chairpersons of the Assembly’s Long Island Sound Task Force and its Commission on Toxic Substances and Hazardous Wastes will hear testimony with Englebright.
The Department of Interior on Jan. 4 announced a plan to allow offshore oil and gas exploration and drilling in nearly all U.S. territorial waters, except within a 25-nautical mile coastal buffer. It implements an executive order signed by President Donald Trump in April requiring the U.S. to widen domestic energy exploration. Currently about 94 percent of the outer continental shelf is off-limits to oil and gas drilling under rules adopted last year by the Obama administration. The plan is hailed by federal officials as “advancing the goal of moving the United States from simply aspiring to energy independence to attaining energy dominance.”
Enthusiastically backed by the energy industry, the draft plan drew swift, universal opposition from the governors of states up and down the East Coast, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who called the plan “yet another federal assault on our environment.”
The plan has been condemned by Long Island’s federal and state legislators, by local elected officials and environmental advocates.