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State: LI coast must be safeguarded from offshore drilling

Bryan Erwin, chair of the Long Island State

Bryan Erwin, chair of the Long Island State Parks Commission, seen here in 2016, said recently, "If the environment is polluted, corrupted, or disrupted, obviously, it's going be a lousy park experience for our patrons." Credit: Barry Sloan

Long Island’s coast and “ocean economy” must be safeguarded from potentially ruinous drilling for oil and gas in the Atlantic Ocean or Long Island Sound, a state park advisory body said.

Bryan Erwin, who chairs the commission, said by telephone, “If the environment is polluted, corrupted, or disrupted, obviously, it’s going be a lousy park experience for our patrons and all the water-facing parkland we have.”

Noting the oil drillers would need to build “massive infrastructure,” including roads, storage tanks, pipelines, processing and other facilities, the Long Island State Park, Recreation and Historic Preservation Commission issued a March 12 resolution opposing the leases “to ensure the preservation of parks and beaches on Long Island.”

U.S. Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke proposed selling 47 drilling leases in the outer continental shelf that rings the nation.

Under the five-year plan, two leases would be offered in New York’s mid-Atlantic area, according to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

Just days after Zinke exempted Florida, Cuomo called on the Trump administration to also shield New York, saying the leases posed an “unacceptable threat” to coastal resources.

Other governors also have sought exemptions. Coastal state legislatures — including New York — introduced bills blocking oil and gas infrastructure from being erected or transiting the first 3 miles of the outer continental shelf they control, according to The Associated Press.

Two weeks ago, federal officials attending a Town of Brookhaven hearing were told the drilling would prove catastrophic for the economy and environment.

The Obama administration barred drilling in sections of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic Oceans.

By expanding fracking, injecting liquid at high pressure into subterranean rocks to extract oil or gas, however, the Obama administration spurred a boom in U.S. oil output; it topped 10 million barrels for the first time since 1970, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

This has led critics to say offshore leases are not needed.

“That is a false argument,” a Department of Interior spokeswoman said by email.

“Suggesting we don’t need energy source A because we have energy source B is shortsighted.” She added: “Offshore production represents about a fifth of our nation’s oil production and is just one tool in our energy toolbox to keep prices competitive for American families and businesses.”

The EIA also forecast new solar and wind plants will produce nearly 70 gigawatts of electricity from 2017 to 2021. One gigawatt can power 100 million LED bulbs, it says.

The Long Island commissioners’ resolution calculated offshore drilling could cost the state nearly 320,000 jobs and billions of dollars from tourism and fishing industries.

“Overall, New York’s ocean economy generates $11 billion in wages and contributes $23 billion in gross domestic product,” it added.

In its report, the Department of Interior estimated “ocean-dependent tourism” contributed $33.9 billion to New York’s economy.

BP estimates it has paid approximately $65 billion to settle its liabilities for the Deepwater Horizon fire in 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico. That blaze and explosion killed 11 workers — and untold numbers of marine animals — and crippled recreation and fishing for years.

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