Administration blocks Atlantic Coast offshore drilling

earthThe Bureau of Ocean Energy Management announced Tuesday that the Atlantic Coast will not be included in the next five-year oil and gas leasing program.

Concerns raised by the Department of Defense and NASA played a role in the decision, which will block energy exploration in the Atlantic Ocean through 2022.

“I take seriously the concerns the Department of Defense and NASA have raised about the potential impacts of energy exploration and development along the Atlantic Coast,” Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., said in a statement. “I also believe we have to take into account the challenge of securing a fair revenue-sharing agreement for Virginia, and the changed economics surrounding oil and gas development. I look forward to getting a full briefing from the Navy and NASA Wallops about the nature of their concerns.”

Gov. Terry McAuliffe signaled that the next step for state and federal leaders is to work to address those concerns.

“Today’s announcement is an opportunity to work with the Department of Defense to address the concerns they have raised, and to ensure that any offshore energy exploration is coupled with a revenue sharing agreement that benefits our Commonwealth,” McAuliffe said. “This announcement should also serve as motivation to expand and diversify Virginia’s energy economy in every sector, with a particular focus on renewables. By bringing public and private sector partners together Virginia can become a global leader in clean energy technologies and create the next generation of energy jobs along the way.”

Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam highlighted concerns related to potential economic impact on the Hampton Roads economy from offshore drilling.

“Forty percent of Hampton Roads’ economy is tied to defense-related activities. Tourism and aquaculture generate billions of dollars for the Commonwealth. We cannot afford to jeopardize these important industries that are all tied to the health of our coastal waters,” Northam said. “Today’s announcement is a win for Virginians. I look forward to continuing to work with federal and state officials as well as community leaders to sustain a healthy and prosperous Virginia that brings good-paying jobs to our communities.”

Environmental groups were joyed at today’s news.

“We’re extremely happy with President Obama’s decision to withdraw the Atlantic lease sale. Thanks to the hard work by the many people who participated in this long process this is a win for coastal communities, economies, and the climate and shows the power that communities have at the grassroots level.” said Zach Jarjoura, Hampton Roads Conservation Coordinator with the Sierra Club Virginia Chapter, who organized the Mock Oil Spill demonstration in Richmond.

“Today is a historic day for Virginia, for our country, and our planet,” said Jay Ford, executive director of Virginia Eastern Shorekeeper. “President Obama’s decision protects our coasts and the future generations who inherit the consequences of our decisions. We want to thank the Virginia localities, trade associations, and thousands upon thousands of citizens who made their concerns known to the administration.”



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