The recent passage of a House bill prohibiting the sale of Plum Island has renewed optimism among legislators and environmental advocates that it will pass the Senate and become law.
The House of Representatives voted Tuesday to pass H.R. 2182, a measure that would suspend laws passed in 2008 and 2011 that ordered the federal government’s sale of the island to the highest bidder.
Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), who sponsored the bill, said in a statement that he and other legislators would be calling for the bill to be signed into law “as soon as possible.”
“Preserving this island’s natural beauty, while maintaining a research mission, will continue to provide important economic and environmental benefits to Long Island,” Zeldin said. “It will also ensure that the state-of-the-art research facility at Plum Island does not go to waste.“
While the bill would not allow for the island’s existing animal research facility to stay open, it would seek alternatives that will keep the lab’s infrastructure in use following the center’s planned closure, according to a representative for Zeldin. The Department of Homeland Security decided in 2008 to move to a new facility in Kansas by 2022 and sell Plum Island to offset the building costs.
Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell said Wednesday that he was pleased with the news, noting the importance of the island to residents over the years.
A similar bill to block the sale of the island passed the House last year but failed in the Senate.
Russell said he is optimistic the bill will now pass in the Senate and called on Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) to get it approved. “They need to deliver on this issue,” Russell said.
Environmental advocates were also hopeful the bill will get approved.
“We are confident that once they realize the nationally-significant cultural and natural resources at stake, federal lawmakers will move to protect it,” said John Turner, a spokesman for the Preserve Plum Island Coalition.
Gillibrand spokesman Rowhan Baptiste said Gillibrand supports the bill and “will also continue work with her colleagues in the Senate on a permanent solution for conserving the island for future generations.”
In an email, Schumer spokesman Angelo Roefaro said: “Plum Island is an ecological treasure and the location of an important lab; we should preserve it rather than auction it off to the highest bidder for development. While not a full solution, this bill is helpful and we will work to include it in Senate legislation.”