State legislature passes bill banning offshore drilling

The New York State Legislature approved a bill to ban offshore drilling Tuesday.

The bill amends the Environmental Conservation Law to prohibit offshore oil and gas production. It would prevent the state Department of Environmental Conservation from leasing state-owned underwater coastal areas for drilling and also stop the Office of General Services from authorizing leases that would increase oil or natural gas production in federal waters.

The bill would also amend the Transportation Corporations Law to prevent pipelines and other infrastructure from being developed in New York’s waters.

A 2018 plan by the federal government to make 90 percent of the nation’s outer continental shelf open to oil and gas drilling drew immediate opposition from local officials. The Department of the Interior held a public hearing in Brookhaven last year after pressure from Long Island representatives. Initially, the only public session in New York was to be held in Albany.

During the hearing, lawmakers, environmentalists and industry stakeholders testified against the plan, warning about the dangers drilling poses to the local environment, economy and quality of life.

Sen Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) was a lead sponsor this legislation banning offshore drilling. 

We have painstakingly worked to preserve and protect our pristine waters, and we certainly do not want to imperil all of our efforts to maintain clean water by allowing drilling off our shoreline,” he said.

Environmental groups also praised the passage of the bill.

“Today, the New York Legislature stood up against President Trump’s radical plan to expand offshore drilling activities,” said Brian Langloss, Oceana campaign organizer, in a statement Tuesday. “The legislature is standing with communities across the nation as we work together to ensure drilling doesn’t get one inch closer to our beaches.”

The bill now moves to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who supports the ban on offshore drilling.

[email protected]

Photo caption: Long Island’s waterways captured by local fisherman Chris Hamilton. (Courtesy photo)