Virginia Democrats Seek Permission for Offshore Oil and Gas Production

Published July 11, 2013

Virginia Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, both Democrats, have introduced legislation to lift a federal moratorium on oil and natural gas production off the coast of Virginia.

Federal-State Revenue Sharing
The legislation, “Virginia Outer Continental Shelf Energy Production Act of 2013,” would equally split government revenues from oil and natural gas production between Virginia and the federal government.

“I have long advocated for additional exploration and the responsible production of domestic energy resources off of the Virginia coast,” Warner said in a media statement announcing the legislation. “Our legislation includes appropriate environmental protections and an equitable formula for sharing revenues between the state and the federal governments.” 

Virginia would earmark 25 percent of its oil and natural gas revenues for environmental conservation efforts, with 75 percent going into the commonwealth’s general fund.

Multiple Viewpoints Sought
Cosponsor Kaine, added in a press statement, “Virginia is well positioned to be a national leader in offshore energy exploration. A comprehensive energy strategy—including oil, gas, wind, solar, tidal, and other areas—can transition us to a clean energy future while bringing that transition with secure U.S. fuels we don’t have to import.” 

Warner says he will seek input from the U.S. Navy, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), environmental activist groups, and the general public before lease sales begin. Environmental activist groups are likely to welcome wind and tidal energy development but fiercely resist oil and gas exploration. NOAA has increasingly become a voice of climate alarmism and may join forces with environmental organizations in pressing for barriers to oil and gas exploration. 

The U.S. Navy has not opposed offshore drilling or wind farms, but it has expressed concerns that offshore facilities, whether for fossil fuels or renewable energy, not interfere with training exercises it regularly conducts off the Virginia coast.

Virginians Want Moratorium Lifted
The Warner-Kaine legislation is similar to a bill introduced in the House by Rep. Scott Rigell (R-VA). The aim is to undo the moratorium imposed by the Obama administration in 2010 in the wake of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. That moratorium is in effect until 2017, even though new technologies and equipment can within 48 hours cap a wellhead blowout twice the size of the BP rupture.

“Virginia’s senators are responding to their constituents,” said Institute for Energy Research Director of State Policy Daniel Simmons. “Virginians overwhelmingly want to be able to drill offshore, but the Obama administration is standing in the way.

“When President Obama took office, almost all offshore areas were open for exploration and drilling, but the president put an end to that,” Simmons explained. “Offshore energy production helps all Americans, and it’s good that Virginia’s senators recognize that.” 

Bonner R. Cohen, Ph. D. ([email protected]), is a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research.