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Cantor meets with Salazar to urge drilling off Virginia's shore

Anita Kumar

U.S. Rep. Eric Cantor (R) is the latest Virginia leader to urge U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to allow drilling off the coast of Virginia.

Cantor met with Salazar yesterday to encourage him to keep Virginia in the Minerals Management Service's five-year plan and begin soliciting companies to drill off the coast next year.

"During the last comment period ... nearly eight in 10 Virginians expressed support for some form of offshore exploration,'' Cantor said in a statement. "Offshore energy exploration has the potential to provide thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in revenue for Virginia and is supported by the people of the Commonwealth, our Governor and our legislature."

As we reported this week, most Virginia leaders -- regardless of political party -- have expressed interest in joining Alaska, Texas, Louisiana and other states in setting up offshore platforms to drill for oil and natural gas.

Gov. Robert F. McDonnell and fellow elected Republicans strongly back the proposal, as do most members of the state's congressional delegation, including both U.S. senators, who are Democrats.

The General Assembly passed a pair of bills during its annual session that show the divided legislature's support for drilling -- one that backs exploration, development and production 50 miles off the coast, and another that directs 70 percent of any future drilling royalties to state road improvements. Even Virginia Beach, the state's largest city and one that relies heavily on tourism, passed a resolution recently that supports oil and gas drilling off its shore.

Virginia is in line to be the first Atlantic Coast state to drill off its shore, although it will probably be years before it starts, even if it receives the necessary approval from the Obama administration.

Congress would still need to pass a bill to allow Virginia to receive any royalties from offshore oil or gas drilling, as it did in 2006 when it allowed Gulf Coast states to begin taking home 37.5 percent of revenue.

The 25-year-old federal moratorium on energy exploration and development off the coast of Virginia and other states expired in 2008. Virginia is the only state on the East Coast included in the Minerals Management Service's five-year plan.

By Anita Kumar  |  March 18, 2010; 5:36 PM ET
Categories:  Anita Kumar , Eric Cantor , Robert F. McDonnell  
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