March 9 (Reuters) – New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Friday said he had formally asked for the state to be excluded from a federal offshore drilling program that he said would threaten its ocean resources and endanger efforts toward a cleaner energy economy.
“New York State strongly opposes the Department of the Interior’s National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program as it poses an unacceptable threat to New York’s ocean resources, to our economy and to the future of our children,” Cuomo said in announcing the exclusion request.
The five-year program, launched by the federal government in early January, proposes to make over 90 percent of the total U.S. offshore acreage available to oil and gas drilling. The plan would open two areas of the North Atlantic coast adjacent to New York State for fossil fuel exploration, according to a statement from Cuomo’s office.
“As the number three ocean economy in the nation, New York stands to lose nearly 320,000 jobs and billions of dollars generated through tourism and fishing industries should the exclusion not be granted,” Cuomo said.
“Instead of protecting our waters from another oil spill, like the one that devastated the Gulf, this new federal plan only increases the chances of another disaster taking place,” he said.
Florida was granted exemption from the program on the grounds that the state relies heavily on tourism.
Interior Department spokeswoman Heather Swift did not immediately respond to a request for comment. New York is one of several states that has asked to be exempted from the drilling plan, and Interior has said it is considering the requests and holding discussions with states as it finalizes the proposal over the coming months.
Officials with at least two states, California and Washington, promised to take additional steps toward thwarting the plan. In letters to the Interior Department last month, they said they would block permits for transporting oil from new offshore rigs through their states.
In an effort to promote renewable energy in the New York, Cuomo also announced $1.4 billion in awards for 26 large-scale renewable energy projects across the state.
The awards, driven by the Clean Energy Standard mandate to obtain 50 percent of New York’s electricity from renewable energy sources by 2030, are expected to generate enough clean, renewable energy to power more than 430,000 homes and create over 3,000 short- and long-term well-paying jobs, the statement said.
(Reporting by Apeksha Nair in Bengaluru and Devika Krishna Kumar and Laila Kearney in New York; Editing by Dan Grebler)
(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2018.