Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Virginia Passes Offshore Oil & Gas Drilling Legislation

The Center opposes expanded oil and gas drilling off the East and West coasts of the United States. No amount of offshore reserves are worth the risk of permanently spoiling our coasts.

Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell signed into law today a bill that approves offshore drilling. The bills supporting offshore oil and gas exploration and directing royalties from drilling back to Virginia each hinge on actions by the federal government and Congress. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar could announce his decision soon or he could put it off until 2012, according to some accounts. Regardless, the federal government will have to approve the sale of oil and gas leases in a triangular tract 50 miles off of the Virginia coast. Congress will also have to continue with the lapsed ban on the offshore oil drilling. Congress' ban on offshore drilling expired in September 2008. The Center will encourage Congress to reinstitute the ban. According to some rough estimates, the 2.9 million acres has an estimated 130 million barrels of oil and 1.1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

The proposals are part of his stated goal of making Virginia the "Energy Capital of the East Coast" through offshore resources, as well as nuclear and coal, creating thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in revenue. The bill divides any royalties from offshore oil and natural gas drilling so that 70 percent would head to the state’s Transportation Trust Fund, 20 percent would go to the Virginia Coastal Energy Research Consortium and 10 percent would flow to local jurisdictions specifically for transportation improvements.

In addition to opposing drilling off the coast of Virginia, the Center opposes mountaintop removal. We support utilizing coal in as clean a manner as possible. The Center is also an aggressive supporter of nuclear power. We also support offshore wind power development. (Google Hosted News, Washington Business Journal, 3/10/10))

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