Offshore drilling hearing should be moved to LI, officials say

The federal government has scheduled the hearing in Albany, but Long Island officials argue it should be held closer to those impacted by the proposal.

By Carl MacGowan This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. @CarlMacGowan Updated February 7, 2018 6:08 PM

Long Island officials have asked the federal government to move a hearing next week on an offshore oil drilling plan from Albany to a site on the Island.

The Feb. 15 meeting on the U.S. Department of the Interior’s proposal to expand drilling to as many as nine sites in the Atlantic Ocean, including two off Long Island, is the only scheduled hearing in New York.

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Edward P. Romaine, in a letter sent Tuesday to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, said the Albany hearing “would be inconvenient for many Long Island residents.” He asked that the meeting be moved to Long Island, or that a second meeting be held on the Island.

“Hosting a public forum at a landlocked city three hours away from the shoreline of New York will make it more difficult for members of the public who have an interest in coastal waters in their backyards to attend,” Romaine wrote, adding he opposes the drilling plan.

An Interior Department spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

Assemb. Steven Englebright (D-Setauket), who is co-hosting a separate state hearing on the drilling plan Wednesday in Smithtown, also said the federal hearing should be moved to Long Island.

“I don’t know why they would think the appropriate place to hold a hearing [is . . . ] the foothills of the Adirondacks,” he said. “That’s almost as senseless as the proposal itself.”

President Donald Trump’s administration last month announced a draft plan to authorize nine new drilling lease sales in the Atlantic Ocean, including two in a coastal region that includes New York. Specific sites have not been identified.

Bottom of.Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has asked the federal government to remove the New York sites from the list, calling the drilling plan an “unacceptable threat” to the coastline.

The federal government is holding 22 hearings on the plan, including the Albany meeting, which is to be at 3 p.m. at a Hilton hotel. Meetings also are planned in Hartford, Boston, Trenton and Providence.

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) said in a statement a hearing should be held on Long Island, “instead of or in addition to where it is currently scheduled to take place in Albany.”

“On Long Island, our coastal economy is our economy and it makes much more sense for a hearing of this nature to take place in the region most impacted by this proposal,” Zeldin said.

The state hearing is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at the Suffolk County office building on Veterans Memorial Highway in Smithtown. The hearing is open to the public.