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Conservation Groups Raise Concerns About Offshore Drilling

Whales and dolphins are returning to the Long Island coast as fish populations rebound. (shadowfaxone/Pixabay)
Whales and dolphins are returning to the Long Island coast as fish populations rebound. (shadowfaxone/Pixabay)
February 15, 2018

ALBANY, N.Y. — Environmental groups say a proposal to allow oil and gas drilling off the Atlantic Coast poses real risks to New York.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management holds a public hearing on the draft plan in Albany today. The proposal, issued by the U.S. Department of the Interior, would open up 90 percent of U.S. coastal waters to potential exploration and drilling.

Amanda Lefton, deputy policy director for The Nature Conservancy in New York, said her organization is deeply disappointed with the plan.

"It's safe to say that it presents a significant risk,” Lefton said. “The bottom line is truly that New York has a lot to lose with potential threats to our ocean coasts and marine resources."

Attorneys general from a dozen states have urged federal officials to reconsider the plan. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management says the environment would be protected.

Lefton said the bureau is required to balance economic and environmental interests as it develops its five-year plan. For New York, the economic interests of a sound marine environment are substantial.

"NOAA's own reports back in 2014 showed that New York's ocean economy not only employed over 300,000 people, but it generated $24.9 billion in gross domestic product,” Lefton said.

She added that New York's waters are still rebounding from years of overfishing.

Lefton noted that the Interior Department's plan stands in contrast to New York state's recently-released master plan for the development of offshore wind.

"New York has taken a thoughtful approach to understanding what resources are out there, identifying the data gaps and thinking about how to approach offshore wind in a manner that avoids or mitigates impacts to critical marine resources," she said.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is accepting public comment on the draft plan through March 9.

More information is online at Nature.org

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NY