New York State has approximately 2,625 miles of coastline. There are, of course, a myriad of reasons for protecting the state’s coastline. Beyond the coastline’s beauty and its role as an irreplaceable habitat for wildlife and endangered species, there is the indisputable fact that those 2,625 miles of coastline support industries that are vital to New York States’ economy—industries like commercial fishing, tourism, recreation, and shipping that employ more than 345,000 workers and contribute billions to the state’s revenues. It’s no surprise, then, that when Donald Trump signed what he called his “America-First Offshore Energy Strategy” in 2017, the response from New York, as well as other coastal states, was immediate and vehement. By declaring his intention to reverse an Obama-era ban on drilling in Alaska and parts of the Atlantic and his intention to open up previously protected areas of the Outer Continental Shelf to gas and oil exploration, Trump threw down a gauntlet that coastal states could not ignore.
That initial salvo was followed up with the announcement in 2018 that the Interior Department intended to hold forty-seven lease sales for oil and gas drilling between 2019 and 2024 in more than two dozen previously protected areas, nine of which would have been along the Eastern Seaboard. Since that initial signing and the Interior Department’s announcement, every state on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts has declared its opposition to offshore drilling. Legislatures on the East, the West, and the Gulf coasts have crafted various legislative responses to protect their coastal assets. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, 200 municipalities, 1,200 local officials, and 40,000 businesses in coastal areas have declared in no uncertain terms their opposition to the Trump administration’s embrace of the oil and gas industries’ reckless pursuit of profits that fail to take into account the environmental costs of oil spills, climate change, and habitat destruction.
This past week, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation—passed with the overwhelming support of the newly elected Democratic majority in the state legislature—prohibiting all oil and gas exploration in coastal waters. In a statement at the signing, Cuomo declared, “This bill says no way are you going to drill off the coast of Long Island and New York, because we must lead the way as an alternative to what this federal government is doing.”
New York’s legislation bans the use of state-owned coastal areas for oil and natural-gas drilling. The legislation also seeks to prevent the Office of General Services as well as the Department of Environmental Conservation from authorizing any leases intended to increase oil or natural gas production in federal waters. Going even further, the legislation prohibits the development of any infrastructure associated with the development or production of oil or natural gas from the coastal waters of New York State.
With this signing, New York State joins California, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, and Oregon, all of which have enacted their own laws preventing the expansion of federal leasing for oil and gas exploration off their shores. Similar legislation has been introduced in Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and South Carolina.
On a positive note, the courts have stepped into the fight for preserving America’s coastal waters. On April 25, 2019, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt revealed that the Trump administration’s plans to hold lease sales and expand offshore drilling in federal waters along the East Coast and the Arctic have been suspended indefinitely, following a federal court ruling upholding a ban on drilling in Alaska and parts of the Atlantic put into place during the Obama administration.
Watch the video below, called “Why Trump Is Wrong about Offshore Drilling,” for a brief history of how offshore drilling has been traditionally regulated and an explanation of the dangers of opening up new areas to drilling.