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Lawmakers request Virginia be added to offshore drilling ban

(© W. Scott McGill –

A group of Democratic lawmakers is pressuring President Trump to extend a moratorium on offshore oil and gas drilling to the Commonwealth of Virginia.

A letter from U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine, along with U.S. Reps. Bobby Scott, Gerry Connolly, Don Beyer, A. Donald McEachin, Elaine Luria, Abigail Spanberger and Jennifer Wexton (all D-VA), follows the president’s decision to exempt three states led by Republican governors (Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina) from his administration’s plan to open more than 90 percent of the Outer Continental Shelf to oil and gas leasing.

This, despite requests for an exemption from Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, members of Virginia’s congressional delegation, and Virginia’s coastal communities, whose industries would be severely impacted by the proposal.

“In Virginia, more than 20 communities have officially voiced their opposition to offshore drilling, including the Commonwealth’s most populous cities, Virginia Beach and Norfolk. In addition, Virginia’s General Assembly passed a law earlier this year that would prohibit oil and gas drilling and related infrastructure in Virginia waters,” the lawmakers wrote. “Offshore oil and gas drilling threatens the Commonwealth’s economy, natural resources, and military assets. Virginia’s coastal communities rely predominantly on industries that would be affected by your proposal including tourism, recreation, commercial fishing, aquaculture, and deepwater port commerce. Further, the Department of Defense’s analysis has shown that oil and gas leasing off the coast of Virginia could potentially disrupt military operations, training, and testing activities critical to the U.S. military’s readiness and our national security.”

The letter continued: “For these reasons and more, Virginians are overwhelmingly opposed to your administration’s proposal to expand offshore drilling off the Atlantic Coast. Virginia has been as vocal in its opposition to opening up its offshore area to oil and gas drilling as Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. Yet, Virginia has not received the same promises as these states.”

In 2018, the Trump administration proposed a program to open more than 90 percent of the Outer Continental Shelf to oil and gas leasing. This program was subsequently opposed by Republican and Democratic governors all along the Atlantic seaboard. Offshore oil and gas drilling has also been opposed by more than 285 localities on the East Coast and Florida’s Gulf Coast, 2,300 elected officials, 46,000 businesses, and 500,000 fishing families along the East Coast.

In their letter, the members of Congress noted the president’s lack of explanation for Virginia’s exclusion, and urged the president to take the concerns from Virginia coastal communities just as seriously as those in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.

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