Obama to allow gas and oil drilling off Virginia coast
President Obama is set to announce that he will allow oil and gas drilling 50 miles off Virginia's coast, including a possible sale two years from now of leases off the state's shores.
The decision, which Obama will announce with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar at Andrews Air Force Base this morning, ends a long-standing ban on drilling along much of the East Coast, from Delaware to central Florida.
Read the full story by Post reporter Juliet Eilperin.
Obama's move will represent a victory for Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, who campaigned last year on making the state the "Energy Capital of the East Coast" and using proceeds from drilling to pay for transportation. (Congress would still need to pass a bill allowing Virginia to receive royalties.)
Most Virginia leaders -- regardless of political party -- have expressed interest in drilling for oil and natural gas, including both U.S. Sens. Jim Webb and Mark. Warner and most members of the state's congressional delegation.
But environmental groups and some Democratic members of Congress, including U.S. Reps. James P. Moran Jr. of Northern Virginia and Robert C. Scott of Hampton Roads, say they worry that possible spills and new infrastructure onshore and off could harm plants, animals, tourism and the naval base in Norfolk, the world's largest.
In anticipation of today's announcement, the Sierra Club Virginia Chapter already sent out a statement.
"We are deeply disappointed that the Obama administration has chosen to open up new areas that have long stood protected from the dirty, risky business of offshore drilling," said Glen Besa, chapter director. "Our beloved clean Virginia beaches are the backbone of our coastal economy, generating billions of dollars in revenues from tourism, recreation and commercial fishing...There are not only the risks of spills both chronic and catastrophic but also the industrialization of our coastal communities that would either debilitate or destroy Virginia's coastal economy,"
Virginia has been in line to be the first Atlantic Coast state to drill off its shore. It still will probably be years before it starts, even with the necessary approval from the Obama administration.
The 25-year-old federal moratorium on energy exploration and development off the coast of Virginia and other states expired in 2008. Virginia has been the only state on the East Coast included in the Minerals Management Service's five-year plan.
March 31, 2010; 8:00 AM ET
Categories: Anita Kumar , Barack Obama , Robert F. McDonnell
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