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Zinke calls for more wind energy proposals off LI

U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke speaks at an

U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke speaks at an offshore winds energy forum in Princeton, N.J., on Friday. Credit: AP / Wayne Parry

PRINCETON, N.J. — U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke issued a powerful endorsement for offshore wind energy at a symposium here Friday, and announced a call for new proposals for a wind energy area off Long Island.

Zinke said wind energy was a key part of the Trump administration’s plan for greater energy independence, saying it was “morally the right thing to do” in place of seeking resources in conflict-ridden areas.

He called the offshore wind industry a virtual “blank slate” with “enormous potential.”

His speech included announcement of a formal “call for information and nominations” from companies interested in potential wind energy areas for the New York Bight off Long Island’s South Shore.

Fishermen have sued to block a lease already issued to Statoil in that area, which they consider a vital scallop and squid ground.

Zinke emphasized the importance of protecting fisheries and the fishing industry, saying they’ll be important stakeholders in a five-year plan being developed by the department.

“We don’t want to cripple or hurt the fishing industry,” he said. “They are concerned. Fishing is a very important industry.”

The new area identified by Zinke is considerably larger than four wind energy areas listed by New York State as part of its recently released offshore wind master plan. Notably, the federal area includes a large swath of water directly off the entire South Fork of Long Island, one that Alicia Barton, chief executive of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, said the state’s plan “does not support.”

Barton applauded Zinke’s announcement of the broader New York area, calling it an “important first step in the process” of developing the area and New York’s wind energy industry.

Zinke also appeared to throw cold water on President Donald Trump’s announced plan to allow offshore oil and gas exploration and drilling off the entire U.S. coast, saying opposition has been fierce and resources limited, particularly off the East Coast.

“There’s very little if any oil and gas reserves known off the coast of New York,” or the mid-Atlantic plate. There’s also “no infrastructure” to start oil and gas drilling there. Only the governors of two states — Maine and Georgia — didn’t oppose the plan, he said.

Oil and gas drilling, he said, is also a “greater risk” than offshore wind or onshore oil and gas drilling. Zinke said the department would take the opposition into account when developing the offshore plan.

Barton of NYSERDA took note. “We’re glad to see him acknowledging all those factors,” she said. New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, she said, “can’t be more clear what a bad idea” East Coast drilling would be.

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