Bills Will Protect New York Assets from Offshore Drilling

NY’s "Save Our Waters" bill is a Bronx cheer to the Trump Administration’s oil drilling plan; developers won’t find a safe harbor here.

New York’s ocean use doesn’t mix with harmful offshore oil and gas development. Hundreds of thousands of New York jobs and billions of dollars of the state’s gross domestic product depend on clean, oil-free water and beaches and abundant fish and wildlife.

Yet the Trump Administration’s proposed oil and gas leasing plan would open nearly all ocean waters more than three miles from shore to oil and gas drilling—the entire East Coast, West Coast, Gulf Coast, and Alaska.


Hundreds of New Yorkers turned out to oppose this extreme proposal during its comment period and, together with Vice President Al Gore, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced New York’s formal request for exclusion from the plan (as well as the state’s largest commitment to renewable energy procurement—$1.4 billion for 26 large-scale renewable energy projects, both solar and wind.) We’re now waiting to see what the Trump Administration’s next draft of the plan will include.

But just in case New Yorkers weren’t quite loud enough in their drilling opposition, last week Governor Cuomo reiterated “no how, no way” to offshore drilling.

The Governor’s “Save Our Waters” bill is a loud Bronx cheer to the Administration’s proposal, making crystal clear to offshore oil and gas developers that they won’t find a safe harbor here.

Save Our Waters amends state laws to include these additional offshore drilling roadblocks:

  • It prohibits oil and gas exploration, development, and production in state coastal and tidal underwater land.
  • It prohibits construction of any new infrastructure in New York to transport oil and natural gas that is developed in the North Atlantic Planning Area, the federal government’s designation for federal waters offshore the tri-state area and New England.
  • And it prohibits ships and facilities from transporting or storing oil from this area through state waters.

At a Valentine’s Day hearing on Long Island, Assemblyman Englebright introduced a similar bill, A. 9819, which likewise prohibits oil and gas exploration, development, and production in state waters and state leasing of underwater lands to support federal offshore oil and gas infrastructure. Senator LaValle has introduced a same as bill, S. 8017.

The Englebright/ LaValle bill does not include Save Our Waters’ new transportation restrictions, but it does extend to offshore oil and natural gas produced beyond the North Atlantic Planning Area. This is important because offshore oil and gas drilling or exploration anywhere along the Atlantic coast could put New York at risk.

Oil spills don’t stop at state boundaries and can be carried far along the coastline. After BP’s 2010 Deepwater Horizon rig explosion, oil contaminated more than 1,300 miles of coastline, harming fisheries, birds, and impacting endangered whales for generations to come. An equivalent disaster in the Atlantic—depending on currents and weather—could coat beaches from Savannah to Boston. Our state’s fishermen catch species that move throughout the region; a spill anywhere along the Atlantic could affect their livelihoods.

More than 190 cities and towns along the Atlantic coast have passed resolutions opposing offshore drilling and/or seismic testing for oil and gas. Americans own these public waters. And they want to keep their communities safe from the BP-style disasters that drilling can bring.

NRDC strongly supports both New York bills, and is proud to see New York standing up to the Trump Administration’s oil and gas insanity by creating tools to help protect our waters even if the federal government goes ahead with their reckless plan to open waters off our shoreline. But we can’t stand idly by as the federal government endangers our waters, and neither should you. Please sign the state petition opposing offshore drilling and add your voice to the fight against the Administration’s oil plan.