McDonnell backs congressional effort to proceed with offshore drilling

Gov. Bob McDonnell said Tuesday that he backs Washington Republican Congressman Doc Hastings’ effort to require the Department of Interior to proceed with the sale of offshore energy leases in the Gulf of Mexico and off the coast of Virginia that had been scheduled for June 2012.

The Obama administration has put the sale off indefinitely in the wake of the 2010 Gulf oil disaster.

“As we have seen firsthand over the past month in the form of rising gas prices, there is a real cost that comes with a failure to prudently and safely develop our domestic energy resources,” McDonnell said. “Offshore energy exploration and development in the Commonwealth will put Virginians back to work, bring new revenues to our roads and renewable energy research, and will help our nation move a little bit closer to energy independence. It is past time that we became serious about finding solutions to our energy challenges. We will do that by utilizing all of our domestic energy sources, from offshore oil and natural gas to wind, solar, coal, nuclear and biomass. Virginia’s political leaders, employers, workers, drivers and families support safe and responsible offshore energy development. It’s time we get this done.”

On March 31, 2010, President Barack Obama announced that lease sale 220 off the coast of Virginia would move forward, making Virginia the first state on the East Coast to be able to explore for and produce offshore oil and natural gas. On May 27, 2010, the president cancelled the lease sale effective immediately, announcing that no areas off the Atlantic Coast would be available for energy development in the next five-year plan (2012-2017). This means that the earliest a lease sale could even occur off Virginia would be in 2017.

The lease sale area consists of roughly 2.9 million acres offshore of the Commonwealth in the Mid-Atlantic Planning Area, at least 50 miles offshore. The bureau estimates that this area may contain 130 million barrels of oil and 1.14 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. According to a study by the Southeast Energy Alliance, offshore energy development in Virginia could create nearly 2,000 jobs in the Commonwealth and produce more than a half billion barrels of oil and 2.5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Virginia’s General Assembly has already passed bipartisan legislation making the official policy of the Commonwealth to strongly support offshore energy production, and directing future offshore energy revenues to transportation and renewable energy research.

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