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September 23, 2019Cart

Business

by Westchester County Business Journal
by WCBJ

Cuomo calls for ban, even Dunkirk-style citizen fleet, against offshore drilling

“No how, no way” will New York’s waters be opened to gas exploration and drilling says Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who announced Friday a bill to ban all such activities from New York’s coasts, including the Hudson River.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo proposed a bill to ban offshore drilling in New York. Photo provided by governor’s office.

The bill, titled Save Our Waters, is the most significant action the Democratic governor has taken in opposition to a plan from President Donald Trump to open up nearly all U.S. coastal waters to oil drilling.

During a news conference May 4 in lower Manhattan, Cuomo even promised a citizen fleet to ward off offshore drillers. The remarks referenced the World War II battle depicted last year in the film “Dunkirk,” where British Prime Minister Winston Churchill commissioned a fleet of citizen leisure boats to evacuate more than 300,000 soldiers trapped on the French coast.

“If they go to put a platform up or an exploration task force up, I am going to commission a citizen fleet from throughout this state to go out and interfere with their federal effort, just as Winston Churchill did in Dunkirk,” Cuomo said. “If you think I’m kidding, I’m not. I’m going to lead that citizen fleet.”

The legislation from Cuomo would prohibit leases for oil and gas exploration or production in New York waters, including Long Island, New York City and the Hudson River. The bill would also bar offshore production equipment from state lands and ban the transportation of crude oil produced from federal waters through New York’s waters.

The announcement marks the governor’s first legislative efforts to block the offshore drilling plan the Trump administration announced in January. The five-year plan would open 90 percent of U.S. offshore oil reserves to private development.

The Trump administration has portrayed the measure as a step toward American “energy dominance,” but it has drawn significant opposition from the majority of governors in coastal states.

Cuomo said Trump’s proposal would endanger 1,700 miles of New York coastline and puts “polluters first.” He said it threatens the New York metropolitan region’s environment, citing especially its fishing and tourism industries.

The state could be a target for drilling, he said, citing federal figures that estimate the sea floor outside New York City and Long Island might hold 1.8 billion barrels of oil and 11 trillion cub feet of natural gas. The governor said drilling for oil and gas in waters off the state’s coast represents an “unacceptable risk.”

“A spill devastates the entire metropolitan region, period,” Cuomo said. “And we know that a spill is possible.”

Shortly after Trump’s administration announced the offshore drilling plan, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke  said Florida would be exempted from offshore drilling, the only state to be excluded from Trump’s initiative. Cuomo asked for a similar exemption at a press conference in March. On Monday, he said Florida’s exemption shows the Trump administration “makes policy through politics.”

“Why did Florida get an exemption? Because, politically, Florida is important to them,” Cuomo said.

He added that, “on the merits, it would be just as damaging to New York as Florida.”

The governor expressed confidence that the bill would pass the Democrat-controlled state Assembly, but acknowledged it could stall in the GOP-controlled Senate. He also said it’s possible any bill to limit offshore drilling could end up in the courts, as the federal government has claimed in the past that its decisions preempt state law.

“I have no problem passing that law and going to court and suing the Trump administration if they believe it violates preemption,” Cuomo said.