Brazilian oil platform P-51. Photo: Divulgação Petrobras/Agência Brasil via Wikimedia Commons

State lawmakers today passed legislation to prohibit oil and natural gas drilling in New York’s coastal areas.

The measure would prohibit the use of state-owned underwater coastal lands for oil and natural gas drilling and would prevent the Department of Environmental Conservation and the Office of General Services from authorizing leases that would increase oil or natural gas production from federal waters. It would also prohibit the development of infrastructure associated with exploration, development or production of oil or natural gas from New York’s coastal waters.

Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), who chairs the Assembly’s Environmental Conservation Committee, sponsored the bill in that chamber.

“My colleagues and I held a hearing on Long Island last year and there was unanimous condemnation of the federal government’s proposal to open up our waters to drilling for oil and gas,” Englebright said.

“This legislation will safeguard our water and shores from the dangers of fossil fuel exploration and drilling, and will support our efforts to move our state towards cleaner and renewable energy sources.”

In 2017, President Donald Trump issued an “America-First Offshore Energy Strategy” as the first step toward opening previously protected parts of the Outer Continental Shelf to oil and gas exploration.

Drilling off New York’s Atlantic Coast has been off limits for decades, and as a result some of the state’s laws regulating oil and natural gas drilling have not kept pace, Englebright said. This legislation remedies that oversight and reaffirms New York’s coastal management practices to ensure the protection of endangered and threatened species, such as the North Atlantic Right Whale, as well as the state’s tourism and recreational and commercial fishing industries.

“Our largest industry in New York, and especially in coastal New York, is tourism,” Englebright said. “Oil and gas exploration is incompatible with tourism. We’ve seen the kinds of mistakes that have occurred in other parts of the world where oil and gas exploration near recreation areas and near active fisheries has occurred. We don’t want those kinds of chaos to descend upon our economy or our state.”

Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) praised the passage of the bill.

“We have painstakingly worked to preserve and protect our pristine waters and we certainly do not want to imperil all of our efforts to maintain clean water by allowing drilling off our shoreline,” LaValle said. “I request that the governor sign the bill into law, so we can further protect our waters,” he said.

“Today the New York Legislature stood up against President Trump’s radical plan to expand offshore drilling activities,” said Brian Langloss, campaign organizer at Oceana.

“New York’s newly passed law against dirty and dangerous offshore drilling is another demonstration of the powerful and growing opposition along the Atlantic Coast. New Yorkers understand that we must protect our coastal economies and way of life. The legislature is standing with communities across the nation as we work together to ensure drilling doesn’t get one inch closer to our beaches,” he said.

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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.