Congressman Lee Zeldin with local environmentalists and town supervisors at the Long Island Aquarium on Friday.
Congressman Lee Zeldin with local environmentalists and town supervisors at the Long Island Aquarium on Friday.

The U.S. Department of the Interior has proposed opening up coastlines all throughout the country to oil and gas drilling — a move that is proving highly unpopular up and down each of the U.S.’s coasts.

Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), who represents the East End, is breaking with his his general support of U.S. President Donald Trump to oppose oil drilling on the continental shelf.

On Friday, Jan. 26, Mr. Zeldin joined with environmentalists and town supervisors from around the East End at a press conference at the Long Island Aquarium and Exhibition Center in downtown Riverhead to implore Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to ask the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to hold a public hearing on the proposed drilling on Long Island, not in Albany as currently proposed for Feb. 15. 

He is also calling on the Department of the Interior to extend the public comment period on the plan, which currently ends March 9.

The plan, which would open up 90 percent of the U.S. coastline to oil drilling, was originally proposed Jan. 4.

Mr. Zeldin said he is good friends with Mr. Zinke — they are both veterans who were in the same freshman class in Congress in 2015.

He said he hopes Mr. Zinke takes “extra effort in understanding the unity here today” and pointed out that a potential oil spill off the Long Island coast would be disastrous for Long Island’s economy, which is, to a large degree, based on our nautical environment.

“Remove our area from the proposal altogether,” he said. “We have bipartisan support all up and down the East Coast.”

“We need to stop this risky scheme,” said Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment. “Oil and water don’t mix. It is a recipe for disaster.”

Ms. Esposito said the answer to New York’s energy needs isn’t oil, but offshore wind.

“You ever hear of a ‘wind spill?’ I think not,” she said. “We have to stop being fossil fools.”

Discover Long Island President & CEO Kristen Jarnagin pointed out that the Gulf Coast lost $23 billion in tourism dollars in the three years after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and the public perception of an area after an oil spill “can change forever.”

“Landing the Hindenburg in a lighting storm was a bad idea. This is worse,” said State Assemblyman Fred Thiele (D-Sag Harbor), quoting a line from the new movie “The Post.”

Mr. Thiele, who travels to Albany every week to represent the South Fork in the State Assembly, added that “Albany is far away from people who cares about this.”

Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell pointed out that the plan would rely heavily on using the Long Island Sound as a transport route, making the possibility of a spill a real threat to eastern Long Island, all “so a few well-heeled interests can go on a treasure hunt.”

“An oil spill anywhere on the Atlantic shoreline could imperil our economy and way of life,” said East Hampton Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc.

Not long after Florida was carved out of the area where oil and gas drilling would be allowed in early January, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo asked that New York also be exempted.

“Long Island and the New York Harbor are home to 11. 4 million people, with 60 percent of our state’s population living along nearly 2,000 miles of tidal coastline. New York’s “Ocean Economy” (construction, living resources, minerals, ship building, tourism and recreation, and transportation) generates tens of billions of dollars in economic activity and provides hundreds of thousands of jobs,” he wrote in a mid-January letter to Mr. Zinke. “An oil spill offshore New York’s Atlantic coast would cripple the State’s ocean tourism economy and devastate coastal ecosystems, and toxic chemical releases associated with day-to-day drilling operations and pipeline leaks would negatively impact marine and other wildlife.

Beth Young
Beth Young is an award-winning local journalist who has been covering the East End since the 1990s. She began her career at the Sag Harbor Express and, after receiving her Masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, has reported for the Southampton Press, the East Hampton Press and the Times/Review Media Group. She founded the East End Beacon website in 2013, and a print edition in 2017. Beth was born and raised on the North Fork. In her spare time, she tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at

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