Virginia Politics

(Steve Helber - AP)
  Enlarge Photo    
Wednesday, December 30, 2009

McDonnell seeks offshore drilling leases

Gov.-elect Robert F. McDonnell (R) recently sent a letter to U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar asking him to allow for the exploration of oil and gas off Virginia's coast.

In the letter dated Dec. 23, McDonnell urged him to avoid any further delay in granting offshore leases, now scheduled for 2011.

"It is time to develop our off-shore energy resources to create new jobs and provide necessary new revenue for schools, roads, public safety and alternative energy research and development in Virginia," he wrote. "I respectfully request that you direct the U.S. Minerals Management Service to expedite its preparatory work in support of the lease sale in 2011. The leasing process should not be further delayed."

McDonnell's letter comes months after outgoing Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) sent his own letter to Salazar earlier this year asking for a delay in drilling off the Virginia coast.

The 25-year-old federal moratorium on energy exploration and development off the coast of Virginia expired last year.

Late last year, the Minerals Management Service, part of the Interior Department, included Virginia in its five-year plan and began soliciting companies to drill off the coast in 2011. It is the only state on the East Coast included in the plan.

But early this year, Salazar halted the process to review the plan and get input from the public.

In his letter, McDonnell told Salazar that offshore energy exploration and production is a priority for his administration and the state would likely be coming back to the federal government for help with other alternative energy initiatives in the future:

"I would like to work with you and the President to make Virginia an international leader in off-shore energy exploration and production on the Atlantic coast. It is important for both our Commonwealth and our country. We also intend to aggressively pursue off-shore renewable energy sources such as wind farms, and will be asking for your assistance at that appropriate time."

-- Anita Kumar

© 2009 The Washington Post Company