Obama offshore drilling ban draws bipartisan criticism

A bipartisan group of Virginia leaders will work to get the Obama administration to reverse its move to block drilling off the coast of Virginia until at least 2017.

“As a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, we learned a number of lessons, most importantly that we need to proceed with caution and focus on creating a more stringent regulatory regime. As that regime continues to be developed and implemented, we have revised our initial March leasing strategy to focus and expend our critical resources on areas with leases that are currently active. Our revised strategy lays out a careful, responsible path for meeting our nation’s energy needs while protecting our oceans and coastal communities,” Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said Wednesday in a statement announcing the shift in administration policy.

The administration had said in March that it would move to open up areas in the Atlantic, including off the coast of Virginia, to oil and natural gas exploration. That announcement came less than a month before the massive BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that pushed a re-examination of the earlier policy direction.

Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell and Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Warner both indicated today that they will push back.

“Advances in technology continue to make offshore energy production more cost effective and safe. Instead of using that technology to produce more energy in a responsible manner here at home, this administration apparently prefers that we continue to depend more and more on oil from other nations and foreign cartels with far-less stringent environmental regulations and policies,” McDonnell said in a statement today.

Warner spokesman Kevin Hall told The Washington Post that the senator “sees no reason to delay this process” even given what we have learned since the March announcement.

“Sen. Warner will continue to work with Governor McDonnell and other state and local officials, as well as the bipartisan Virginia delegation, to explore ways to re-examine this decision,” Hall told the Post.

The Obama admnistration did get one note of support from an elected Virginia leader. Eighth District Democratic Congressman Jim Moran offered praise for the move to delay future drilling in a statement today.

“It clearly reflects the lessons learned from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster and recognizes the inherent risks of drilling in environmentally restricted areas and where economic and national security interests are in conflict,” said Moran, who has long opposed offshore drilling not just off the coast of Virginia but also elsewhere given the potential long-term environmental hazards.

“We will never achieve energy independence by drilling for more oil on land or at sea – even if we open up every restricted area to drilling,” Moran said. “To pursue such a reckless policy only advances the day we exhaust our limited reserves and undermines our effort to transition to cleaner and more sustainable alternative sources of energy.”

Story by Chris Graham. Chris can be reached at freepress2@ntelos.net.


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