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Gov. Cuomo formally requests NY exemption from offshore drilling

The Trump administration exempted Florida and the governor argues it should do the same for New York.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo addresses the media in Westbury

Gov. Andrew Cuomo addresses the media in Westbury on Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017. Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo sent a formal letter to the Trump administration Monday asking it to add New York to the list of states exempted from the U.S. Department of Interior’s plan to expand offshore drilling, calling the practice an “unacceptable threat” to coastal resources.

Cuomo, a Democrat, noted that the Republican administration exempted Florida and should do the same for New York. Democrats have accused President Donald Trump of playing politics with the issue after the administration moved forward with the expanded drilling plan but took Florida off the table after Gov. Rick Scott met with Trump.

Cuomo called the Florida exemption “arbitrary,” but added that if other states are to be considered, New York should be one.

“New York State strongly opposes the Department of the Interior’s draft proposed plan to open the Atlantic Coast to nine offshore drilling lease sales pursuant to the National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program, including two in our North Atlantic region,” Cuomo wrote in a letter to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. “Your decision to remove Florida from consideration of any new oil and gas platforms before your Department has even concluded its public fact-finding process appears arbitrary. Nevertheless, to the extent that states are exempted from consideration, New York should also be exempted . . . Much like Florida, New York’s ocean coast is unique and plays a vital role in our economy.”

President Barack Obama had enacted a policy that closed the Atlantic and Pacific coasts to offshore drilling through 2022. Reversing that, the Trump administration issued a “draft” plan that would authorize nine new drilling-lease sales off the Atlantic — including two for the coast region that includes New York.

Cuomo said that an offshore oil spill could “cripple the state’s ocean tourism economy and devastate coastal ecosystems . . . and negatively impact marine and other wildlife.” He added that expanded oil drilling contradicts New York’s goal of moving away from fossil fuels and toward renewable sources, such as offshore wind.

Last week, a Zinke aide said the secretary has said since “day one” he wanted to hear from local voices and that governors could request a meeting with Zinke to discuss concerns. Since then, the governors of North and South Carolina have requested meetings and other Atlantic Coast governors have criticized the plan.

Besides the Atlantic, the draft plan calls for 19 lease sales off the coast of Alaska, seven in the Pacific Ocean and 12 in the Gulf of Mexico.

“This is a start on looking at American energy dominance,” Zinke said when announcing the proposal. The new plan reportedly would make more than 90 percent of the outer continental shelf open for leasing.

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