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Rep. Lee Zeldin: U.S. to hold public meeting on drilling on LI

President Donald Trump has proposed opening nearly all U.S. offshore waters to oil and gas drilling.

Rep. Lee Zeldin speaks at a news conference

Rep. Lee Zeldin speaks at a news conference in Riverhead on May 16, 2016. Photo Credit: Ed Betz

The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will add Long Island to its list of public meeting venues to discuss the Trump Administration’s plan to open the nearly the entire U.S. coastline to oil and gas drilling, Rep. Lee Zeldin said Thursday.

Zeldin’s office said the Shirley Republican spoke Thursday with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, a former congressional colleague, about the local meeting. Any such meeting, for which a date has not yet been set, would comply with federal noticing requirements, Zeldin’s office said.

The news came a day after a hearing on the issue led by State Assemb. Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), where officials complained that the federal agency had scheduled its only New York federal hearing in Albany. That hearing took place Wednesday.

Zeldin’s office said he’d also received assurances from Zinke that the draft drilling proposal will include a statement noting that there are limited fossil-fuel resources in the coastal area off Long Island and New York that would make drilling feasible.

In a statement, Zeldin said Zinke “underscored” that the draft plan will “reflect the fact that as of now there aren’t even any known oil or gas resources in Long Island’s surrounding waterways.”

Trump’s proposal has drawn widespread criticism across the state and specifically on Long Island. The Englebright hearing provided a forum for environmentalists, clean-power proponents, the Shinnecock Indian Nation and lawmakers to voice their opposition.

Bill Brown, chief environmental officer for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, said he hadn’t heard about plans for a Long Island meeting.

However, “I do know the secretary has been talking to a lot of people and I’m sure people have been asking for more hearings,” Brown said.

Brown also said the federal agency is examining whether “there are some areas that warrant some exclusion from leasing,” including for environmental concerns. The public meetings are aimed at collecting additional information on those potential concerns and exclusion zones, he said.

The agency also is considering a drilling “buffer” zone to limit potential impacts on wildlife and fishing, he said. Zinke has already agreed to exclude coastal Florida from potential drilling sites.

Brown said comments at the meetings, which are encouraged to be in writing, will help the agency draft an environmental impact statement later this year.

“The more comment the better,” Brown said. “What I’m very focused on is that we give science the deep respect that it’s due.”

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