Goodlatte bill sets stage to revive Virginia OCS lease sale

Nick Snow
OGJ Washington Editor

WASHINGTON, DC, Apr. 6 -- US Rep. Robert W. Goodlatte (R-Va.) introduced legislation on Apr. 5 aimed at reviving the federal Outer Continental Shelf lease sale, which US Sec. of the Interior Ken Salazar canceled following the Macondo well accident and crude oil spill. Goodlatte’s bill would require the US Department of the Interior to proceed with a sale within a year if Virginia’s governor requests that it be held.

“Every day, folks across Virginia and the nation are confronted with the rising cost of energy, from the cost at the [gasoline] pump to soaring electric bills,” said Goodlatte, who introduced a similar bill in 2010. “I believe that Virginia should have every tool available to access its energy supplies.”

He said that the bill would authorize a 50% share for Virginia of revenue oil and gas leasing and production revenue generated from federal leases off its coast to fund various state projects. The federal share would be applied toward reduction of the national debt, he indicated.

A 2011 lease sale off Virginia’s coast was included in the 2007-12 OCS leasing program developed by what was then the US Minerals Management Service after the state’s lawmakers expressed support for one as they developed a comprehensive energy strategy which then-Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) signed into law.

Kaine’s successor, Republican Robert F. McDonnell, included OCS resource development off Virginia’s coast in his 2009 election campaign, and continued after he was sworn in to press DOI to prepare for the scheduled lease sale, which would have been the first off the US East Coast since the 1980s. He asked that it be postponed following the Macondo well accident and spill. Salazar went further, removing the entire East Coast from consideration as the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Research and Enforcement, MMS’s successor agency, develops the next 5-year federal OCS program.

McDonnell threw his support behind Goodlatte’s latest bill on Apr. 5. “Opening these offshore resources to safe exploration and development will result in new jobs and will speed our economic recovery,” the governor said. “Some estimates have shown that development of Virginia’s offshore energy resources would create 2,578 full-time equivalent positions on an annual basis, induce capital investment of $7.84 billion, yield $644 million in direct and indirect payroll, and result in $271 million in new state and local revenue.”

Six other US House Republicans from Virginia are cosponsors. Democrats including James P. Moran, who is ranking minority member of the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, will likely oppose it. The measure was referred to the US House Natural Resources Committee.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.



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