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Warning to Washington About Oil Drilling

Wed, 05/08/2019 - 15:57

A bill recently signed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo sends an important message that New York wants no part of the White House’s push to reopen offshore federal waters to oil drilling. 

East Hampton town has long opposed offshore oil officially. In the 1970s, tar globules washed up along the ocean shore here several times. In 1984, hundreds of oil-soaked seabirds came ashore. More showed up in a precarious state in 1992. More recently, in 1998, a 10-mile stretch of ocean beach was fouled with oil tar from sources unknown. In that incident, guests at Gurney’s Inn in Montauk tracked the oil onto the resort’s carpets, necessitating costly cleanup. 

Both Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton signed moratoriums on offshore oil exploration for the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts. Notably excepted was the Gulf of Mexico, where in 2010 a Deepwater Horizon oil rig spilled about 4.9 million barrels in a disaster whose effects are still being felt across four Southern states. 

Then, as now, drilling technology that was supposed to keep the worst from happening was far from effective. President Obama enacted a permanent ban on offshore oil and gas drilling from Virginia to Maine, and along much of Alaska’s coast. Last year, the East Hampton Town Board issued an official statement in support of continuing the ban, amid movements from the Trump administration toward reopening oil exploration.

New York’s new law prohibits drilling within its three-mile limit and, what is more important, throws up a massive barrier to companies that might want to base operations within the state. Dry land property leases that would lead to an increase in oil or natural gas production from federal waters is banned as well.

Long Island, with about 1,600 miles of shoreline, would be especially vulnerable in the event of a spill. Highly valuable commercial fishing and recreational boating would be wrecked should the worst happen. The statewide ban helps protect these resources and sends a message to Washington that the state’s coastal economy and environment are among its highest priorities.

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