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Let Virginia Decide its Own Energy Policy

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At a time when Virginians are doing everything possible to create jobs and close budget shortfalls, Washington seems set on making sure we fight these battles with one arm tied behind our back.
Instead of empowering us to deal with these issues head-on, the Obama administration is meddling in local decisions that we’re better off making on our own. As evidence, look no further than a series of decisions by the president over the past year to restrict Virginians’ access to the oil and natural gas resources sitting in our own backyard.
In May, President Obama cancelled Lease Sale 220 off Virginia’s coast, which would have created thousands of new jobs here in the commonwealth. Then in December, he reversed an April decision and restricted offshore energy exploration in the Atlantic for at least the next six years.
Through these two decisions, the president ignored the vast economic benefits that offshore drilling would bring to Virginia, including billions in government revenue and the potential for sustained job creation.
More importantly, the President didn’t take into account our citizens’ views on the issue.
This is not a partisan issue. Both Democrats and Republicans in Virginia see the importance of offshore drilling to our state, and polling consistently shows Virginians favor safe offshore resource development.
Gov. McDonnell and Senators Jim Webb and Mark Warner all support safe offshore drilling and its potential to drive state economic growth and improve our nation’s energy security.
Federal leaders should not be overriding Virginia’s expressed – and official – support for outer continental shelf (OCS) leasing on the basis of what can only be described as an anti-oil/anti natural gas bias. Ultimately, Virginians should decide if they want to pursue the domestic energy resources available off our coast.
We should not be held hostage to rules and policies made in Washington — especially when the consequences severely impact our state. And in this case, the decision not to explore and drill makes our nation even more dependent on foreign sources of oil and natural gas.
Offshore drilling has the potential to bring thousands of jobs to Virginia and add billions to the state through royalties and lease payments.
According to a study by the Southeast Energy Alliance, offshore energy development in Virginia could produce more than a half billion barrels of oil and 2.5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, create almost 2,000 jobs in Virginia, add approximately $365 million annually to the State’s economy and generate $19 billion in government revenues in the years ahead. This has the potential to be a real difference maker here in a state that just had to make difficult budget decisions to close a shortfall of more than $4 billion.
Of course, we must ensure that all safety precautions and safeguards are taken when extracting oil and natural gas off Virginia’s coast. The industry has made significant safety improvements since the Deepwater Horizon incident in the Gulf of Mexico last year. In fact, the offshore drilling industry has come together to build a $1 billion spill response system that could be mobilized within 24 hours of an offshore spill.
In the last two years, we have seen the unemployment rate in the Commonwealth double, and with Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ plans to close the Joint Forces Command in Norfolk — potentially threatening 4,000 Virginia jobs — an informed conversation on the state’s job losses and the potential for responsible offshore energy development to meet a significant part of the Commonwealth’s job creation goals is imperative.
The American voters sent a loud signal in the 2010 mid-term elections – they want the government to create jobs, grow the economy and reduce deficits. Both Congress and the Obama administration need to listen to Virginia’s overwhelming support for allowing the state to play a leadership role in exploring the offshore resources in the mid-Atlantic region, which will accomplish all three.
The Obama administration’s suspension of all OCS activities in Virginia’s waters is a disservice to our state, to our nation and to those in the military who are called upon to fight for our nation in the oil rich Middle East.
Republish with permission from the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

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