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UPDATED: Salazar: Lifting of oil drilling moratorium will allow for a 'look and see' off Va. coast

Rosalind Helderman

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar sounded a note of caution about the idea that there will soon be extensive oil drilling off the shores of Virginia after a lunch meeting with Gov. Bob McDonnell at Richmond's executive mansion today, where he said the topic came up.

Salazar, in Richmond to promote a report on job creation in March that showed the largest job growth in three years, said initial efforts off Virginia's coast will be something of a "look and see" expedition to determine whether further drilling is in order.

"My own view is that when you look at the Atlantic, we're still very much in the look and see mode," Salazar said. "Unlike the places like the Gulf of Mexico, where we know there is already significant development and you have the geophysical information and you have the infrastructure that is there -- you can see oil and gas development happening very rapidly within the Gulf of Mexico because it is already happening there."

"That's not the case in the Atlantic, because the information here is very old. It's 30 years old. We still have to go through the environmental analysis to determine whether or not conflicts exist and deal with the military. So this is a look and see, and see where we end up," he continued.

Salazar said the process remains on track to complete a lease sale for rigs in 2012, but he said a revenue-sharing split that would bring Virginia royalty money from drilling would probably only occur as part of a broader energy and climate change bill. Under current law, revenues would go to the federal government.

McDonnell has advocated devoting any share of revenues Virginia receives to transportation improvements. But to see those royalties, Congress would have to agree to a new profit-sharing formula that sends revenue to coastal states. McDonnell has been starkly opposed to climate change legislation that has passed the House and has not given any indication that he would support a congressional deal to provide Virginia a share of oil drilling money in exchange for support for a bill to limit greenhouse gases.

"In order for there to be a different formula devised to bring monies back to the coastal states it would require an act of Congress," Salazar said of the issue. "There are some very principled positions that senators and members of the House of Representatives are taking on both sides of that issue. At the end of the day, if there's going to be revenue sharing with the coastal states from the [outer continental shelf], I believe it's going to take a change in the law that's probably going to come through the energy and climate change bill that would ultimately have to get through the Senate and back through the House to deal with that issue."

Wearing his trademark cowboy hat and bolo tie, Salazar was joined by U.S. Rep Bobby Scott (D-Va.) at the Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site in Richmond to hail today's job numbers, which show that 162,000 jobs were created in March. He acknowledged some of those positions are temporary jobs created by hiring to conduct the U.S. Census, but said he was optimistic that the economy is showing signs of a slow recovery, a turnaround he credited the federal stimulus package for spurring.

"Make no mistake: We are confident and we are optimistic that we are on the right track for economic recovery," he said.

The historic site, the family home of Maggie Walker, who preached economic independence for women and African Americans in the late 1800s, received a $100,000 grant for repairs through the package.

UPDATE: McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin responds to the idea of linking oil drilling revenue sharing to a climate change bill: "The two matters should not be linked together. We look forward to supporting bipartisan legislation put forward by Virginia's Congressional delegation which will ensure the Commonwealth receives a fair and equitable share of all revenues and royalties derived from our offshore energy production."

By Rosalind Helderman  |  April 2, 2010; 3:32 PM ET
Categories:  Barack Obama , Robert F. McDonnell , Rosalind Helderman  
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Comments

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Posted by: Billy4 | April 2, 2010 9:45 PM | Report abuse

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