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Saslaw: Transportation will get 'not one farthing' from oil drilling

Rosalind Helderman

As Gov. Bob McDonnell hails the decision by President Obama to allow oil drilling off Virginia's coast, the state legislature's Cassandra of oil drilling has issued his standard note of caution about the issue.

"We're not going to get one penny. Not one farthing," said Sen. Dick Saslaw (D-Fairfax), senate majority leader, this morning.

Saslaw said he has no problem with drilling and applauded the president's announcement. But despite the lifting of the drilling moratorium, Saslaw said he remains unconvinced state roads will benefit from the decision.

But during the fall campaign, McDonnell had pledged to spend revenues Virginia earns from oil drilling on improving state roads. And the General Assembly passed a bill this year that would, indeed, devote 80 percent of future revenues for transportation.

"What I have the problem with is holding out a hope that right now is nothing more than a pipe dream," Saslaw

To see serious money from oil drilling, Virginia would have to get a share of royalty money paid by oil companies for drilling off the coast. But under current federal law, those monies would be split among the 50 states. A proposal to change the split was defeated on a 2 to 1 vote in the senate just last year. Senators from interior states, argues Saslaw, will never have incentive to change the arrangement, no matter which party they represent.

"I don't know if there's no hope -- but it only takes one man to lift the moratorium. These days because of the filibuster, it takes 60 votes to change that law," Saslaw said.

McDonnell has pledged to lobby to change the arrangement, as have members of the congressional delegation. And there are many moving parts to environmental and energy legislation making its way through Congress--it's not impossible that Virginia could benefit from some type of deal between the states in which other states benefit in other ways.

But Saslaw is dubious.

"It's going to have to be one hell of a deal for them to give that up," he said.

By Rosalind Helderman  |  April 1, 2010; 11:32 AM ET
Categories:  General Assembly 2010 , Robert F. McDonnell , Rosalind Helderman , State Senate , Transportation  
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Comments

Since the VA gov't couldn't seem to fix the roads with the specific tax increase several years ago that was supposedly just for roads, I will have to agree with Sen. Saslaw.

Posted by: schnauzer21 | April 1, 2010 11:59 AM | Report abuse

Actually, under current law, (the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act), the federal government will receive and retain 100% of all royalties that accrue from oil and gas production in the Outer Continental Shelf (3-200 miles off the coastline). The States receive and retain 100% of royalties in the first 3 miles from the coastline. This has been the case since the 1950's. Virginia will get no direct funds, i.e., royalties, from any oil and gas production that should occur in federal waters absent a change in current law.

Posted by: dlanz2271 | April 1, 2010 5:10 PM | Report abuse

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