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After drilling ruled out for Florida, Cuomo asks: How about NY?

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo giving his State of

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo giving his State of the State speech in Albany on Jan. 3, 2018. He posted a petition on his state website about proposed offshore drilling on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

WASHINGTON — After Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke exempted Florida on Tuesday from his proposal last week to reopen offshore drilling in the Atlantic Ocean, New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo tweeted, “Where do we sign up for a waiver @SecretaryZinke?”

Cuomo on Wednesday posted a petition on his state website, declaring, “If Florida gets an exemption, then New York should, too. Sign the petition now and say no to drilling for oil and gas off New York’s coast.”

Cuomo is just one of several governors of coastal states who say they will make their case to Zinke to block drilling off their shores after he protected Florida as he moved to upend a 5-year oil-rights leasing plan ending in 2022 that was issued in November 2016.

Democrats accused Zinke of playing politics after he took Florida off the table following a meeting with its Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican President Donald Trump has encouraged to challenge Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.). Florida is also home to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort.

Alex Hinson, an Interior Department spokesman, said the secretary has said since “day one” that he is interested in hearing from local voices, and governors are welcome to request a meeting with the secretary to discuss their concerns.

It wasn’t clear whether Cuomo had requested a meeting. His press office did not respond to queries.

The Obama-era 5-year policy for 2017-2022 closed both the Atlantic and Pacific to oil and gas exploration and drilling, to the disappointment of the American Petroleum Institute and many big oil companies.

But the new draft plan proposes nine lease sales in the Atlantic region, including two in the section of the Atlantic that includes New York. Currently, the Interior Department said, there are no existing oil leases in the Atlantic and have been no sales of them since 1983.

A meeting about the proposal will be held in Albany on Monday, and the proposal is open for public comment until March 9.

“The entire story here is terrifying,” said Cindy Zipf, executive director of the advocacy group Clean Ocean Action, whose testimony was among evidence used to shape the 2016 plan. Not only has the president opened oceans to drilling, she said, but he is also weakening regulations to protect oceans and gulfs after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

New York Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand joined 35 other Democrats in sending a letter Tuesday to Zinke to protest the new plan, and Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) publicly condemned the Zinke proposal.

The Long Island Association and Discover Long Island also wrote Trump on Wednesday to protest the potential offshore drilling, arguing it could undermine the Island’s $5.6 billion tourism industry, which supports 100,000 local jobs.

Saying the new plan could be summed up as “spill, baby, spill,” Schumer said, “After the disaster of Deepwater Horizon devastated the entire Gulf Coast and cost billions to clean up, we should have learned our lesson.”

With Yancey Roy

State & Region