Updated: Obama administration restricts drilling off Virginia's coast
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced Wednesday that the Obama administration will not allow offshore oil drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico or off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts as part of the next five-year drilling plan, reversing two key policy changes President Obama announced in late March, according to The Post's Juliet Eilperin.
In March -- less than a month before the BP oil spill -- Obama and Salazar said they would open up the eastern gulf and parts of the Atlantic, including off the coast of Virginia, to offshore oil and gas exploration. On both of those new areas, the administration said it would start scoping to see if oil and gas drilling would be suitable.
Read more about today's announcement on the Post Carbon blog here.
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R), who has made drilling off Virginia's coast one of his administration's top priorities, is expected to condemn the decision. He had continued to lobby the federal government to allow companies to start bidding on contracts to conduct exploratory drilling in Virginia's waters 50 miles off the coast late next year or early in 2012.
Updated. 2:45 p.m.: As expected, McDonnell issued a scathing statement in response to Obama's decision. The governor said he expressed his disappointment to Salazar in a phone call this afternoon.
"This is an irresponsible and short-sighted decision,'' he said. "It demonstrates a complete lack of confidence in the entrepreneurial spirit of American industry and its ability to fix the problems experienced in the Gulf spill, and no confidence in the ability of the U.S. government to better plan for and react to offshore emergencies."
McDonnell has said that drilling off Virginia's coast would create thousands of jobs and millions in tax revenue, as well as lessen U.S. dependence on foreign oil.
"This decision comes in the midst of one of the toughest economies in our history,'' he said. "The cost of today's decision will be seen in major lost job opportunities, surrendered economic growth, and increased dependence on foreign sources of energy, from nations often hostile to American interests."
The last study of the Atlantic Ocean by the federal government, conducted two decades ago, estimated that at least 130 million barrels of oil and at least 1.14 trillion cubic feet of natural gas could be off Virginia's coast. That's equal to the amount of oil used in six days and the amount of gas used in less than a month in the United States.
Many experts think tests on similar geographic areas in other parts of the world and limited seismic work off Virginia's coast indicate that there is far more oil and natural gas offshore, although no one has been able to show accurately what is there because of federal restrictions.
"We have been opposed for years to drilling in the Atlantic, which holds meager oil reserves yet provides billions in fishing and tourism revenue to coastal communities,'' said Deborah Murray, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center. "The BP disaster brings into sharp focus just how risky offshore drilling is and the ecological and economic tragedies that await."
| December 1, 2010; 2:16 PM ET
Categories: Anita Kumar, Robert F. McDonnell
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Posted by: mikefromArlington | December 1, 2010 3:58 PM | Report abuse