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Governors vow to jointly fight Atlantic pollution

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MICHAEL VIRTANEN | June 4, 2009 04:28 PM EST | AP

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ALBANY, N.Y. — Governors of five states promised Thursday to work together to protect the Atlantic coast and collaborate on developing offshore wind farms for renewable energy.

The agreement established the Governors Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on Oceans with New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia.

"For centuries, New York and the region have relied on the ocean to provide services like food, commerce, recreation and transportation," New York Gov. David Paterson said. They now face a new generation of issues to keep the sea healthy, he said.

Problems include more beaches closed by pollution, depleted fisheries, rising tides and warming waters.

The agreement indicates the five states will identify ways to protect plant and animal habitats, beginning with the 10 offshore canyons that stretch from New York to Virginia with their fish, marine mammals and corals, said Sarah Chasis, director of the Ocean Initiative for the Natural Resources Defense Council, who attended the meeting.

The governors also committed to encouraging wind energy developments in appropriate offshore areas, improving coordination for projects in each other's and federal jurisdictions, and pushing for federal investment in wastewater infrastructure to protect beaches and fisheries.

"Any threat to these natural resources brings economic consequences that threaten jobs, local economies, and our economic well being," New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine said.

The two governors met at the Borough of Manhattan College with representatives of the other states and Nancy Sutley, who leads the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

Nationally, 1,167 _ or 32 percent _ of all monitored beaches had closings or advisories in 2007, according to state data collected by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. That compares with 23 percent a decade earlier.

Once one of the nation's leaders in hard clams, producing about 700,000 bushels a year, Long Island now produces fewer than 10,000 bushels.

New York lawmakers in 2006 established the state Ocean and Great Lakes Ecosystem Conservation Council and ordered the heads of New York agencies to devise a long-term coast management plan, which was released earlier this year.