ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Wearing fish-shaped caps and armed with a megaphone, New York state’s leading environmental advocates protested President Donald Trump’s plan to open offshore areas to oil and gas drilling on Thursday as federal energy officials held an open house on the proposal near the state Capitol.
The group, wearing caps shaped like sturgeon, salmon and other vulnerable ocean species, included Aaron Mair, past president of the Sierra Club, and Judith Enck, the regional Environmental Protection Agency administrator under former President Barack Obama. They said Trump’s plan could devastate the environment while leaving potential renewable energy sources untouched. They called on Congress to pass a law blocking the proposal.
“We all remember the BP Deepwater Horizon catastrophe,” Enck said into a megaphone, referring to the 2010 rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico that triggered the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history. “We cannot afford that reckless activity in the Atlantic.”
Inside, federal energy officials handed out information packets and briefed members of the public on the president’s decision last month to open most of the nation’s coast to oil and gas drilling as a way of making the U.S. less dependent on foreign energy sources. Several dozen people had trickled through at the midpoint of the four-hour open house. Members of the public were encouraged to submit written comments.
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William Brown, chief environmental officer at the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, said he welcomed comments from opponents to the plan.
“We’re having great discussions,” he said. “They can come in and talk for four hours. We want it.”
Similar open houses are being held in the capital cities of all coastal states. Brown said public input on the idea of expanded offshore drilling would be used in the completion of a draft proposal and a draft environmental impact study, which he said could be completed by the end of the year.