Zeldin accuses Bishop of changing stance on offshore drilling
- East Hampton Press
By Bryan Finlayson
Republican Congressional candidate Lee Zeldin this week accused his opponent, Democratic 1st District U.S. Representative Tim Bishop, of shifting policy positions regarding offshore drilling. Mr. Bishop has denied the charge.
In September, Mr. Bishop voted in favor of the Comprehensive American Energy Security and Consumer Protection Act, which eases a ban on offshore drilling. The act was approved 236 to 189 by the House of Representatives and is currently being considered by the U.S. Senate.
The act would open up 400 million acres off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts to drilling and eliminate some $18 billion in tax breaks to oil companies. It also seeks to establish a $36 billion trust fund dedicated to renewable energy research.
Calling Mr. Bishop's vote on the act contrary to a comment Mr. Bishop made earlier this year, Mr. Zeldin cited a video recording taken of Mr. Bishop at the Democratic National Convention in Denver in August. The video was sent to Mr. Zeldin's campaign anonymously last month.
In the video, an anonymous person asked Mr. Bishop, "What's your stance on offshore drilling?" Mr. Bishop responded by questioning whether additional lands offshore should be opened up to oil companies.
"I think there is absolutely no substance to the offshore drilling argument," Mr. Bishop said in the August video. "When you look at the numbers, there is no reason for the offshore drilling. The oil companies have plenty of access to lands that they are not using that they should use first."
Mr. Zeldin, who has attempted to make political gains by portraying Mr. Bishop as opposing increased domestic oil exploration, said Mr. Bishop's vote in September conflicts with what Mr. Bishop said in August.
"He tells you he favors offshore drilling and then he tells someone else he doesn't," Mr. Zeldin said. "He's bragging about how he voted for offshore drilling. He's going around saying how this is a good thing... and he tells someone else that he doesn't think it has any substance."
Mr. Bishop said his vote was "responsible" in that the act would prevent near-shore drilling.
The Comprehensive American Energy Security and Consumer Protection Act seeks to limit all new drilling to lands no closer than 50 miles offshore. A former ban on offshore drilling which expired on September 30, made it necessary to vote for the act, Mr. Bishop said. Currently, without a ban in place, oil companies could drill as close as 3 miles offshore, he said.
Mr. Bishop, who has made energy a central part of his campaign in part by hosting "energy efficiency fairs" throughout Long Island earlier this year, said that his vote did not conflict with his stance on energy policy. The act "dealt with many areas of energy legislation" that were practical in achieving safe and affordable energy, Mr. Bishop said.
"With no ban on offshore drilling that would allow drilling 3 miles from shore. I am definitely opposed to that," Mr. Bishop said.
He noted that he opposed the Broadwater facility, a liquefied natural gas transfer station that was proposed to be constructed 9 miles off the shore of Long Island. The proposal was shot down by the state's Department of State in April.
"Broadwater was going to be 9 miles offshore and many thought that was going to be environmentally irresponsible," Mr. Bishop said, noting that the opening up of lands more than 50 miles offshore is preferable to allowing drilling closer to shore.
"I believe opening up lands 50 to 100 miles offshore is a environmentally responsible thing that we should do," Mr. Bishop said.
The congressman said that the act would not open up large reserves of oil than those offshore lands already leased to oil companies. In offshore lands in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, there is about 60 billion barrels of oil available. Mr. Bishop said that land containing 42 billion of those barrels of oil is already leased to oil companies.
While the current "law of the land" would allow drilling close to the shoreline, Mr. Bishop said there was no reason to expect to see oil derricks suddenly appear.
"No one should think that we should be in danger of seeing drilling rigs popping up off the shore of Long Island," Mr. Bishop said.
Objecting to provisions in the act, Mr. Zeldin said called the act a "hoax" because it would allow states to opt out of drilling proposals between 50 and 100 miles offshore of their lands.
Mr. Zeldin said it is important to increase domestic oil production to reduce reliance on foreign oil imports.
"We're showing a willingness to increase supply and have less reliance on countries that hate America," Mr. Zeldin said. "We benefit by using more of our own resources."