Lieutenant governor asks BOEM to remove Virginia sale from OCS plan

Virginia’s lieutenant governor asked the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to remove a lease sale off the commonwealth’s coast from the next US Outer Continental Shelf 5-year program.

“Over the years, I have witnessed the demise of the Chesapeake Bay and decided to run for public office in large part to work towards its restoration,” Ralph S. Northam (D) said in a Feb. 25 letter to BOEM Director Abigail Ross Hopper.

He said almost half of the Hampton Roads region’s economy is tied to US military operations, which Virginia constantly competes with other states to retain and grow. Tourism is Virginia’s fifth largest private employer, with travelers spending $22.4 billion/year and supporting more than 200,000 jobs, Northam said.

“We are the leading seafood producer on the East Coast, the third largest producer in the country, and lead the nation in hard clam aquaculture,” he said. “Our annual oyster harvest has a more than $50 million impact. This is all contingent on healthy and clean water, which is only possible through responsible environmental stewardship.”

BOEM’s Draft Proposed 2017-22 OCS program includes a mid and south Atlantic lease sale in 2021. The final plan must be in place by July 1, 2017, when it is scheduled to begin. Virginia’s two US senators—Democrats Mark R. Warner and Timothy Kaine—have called for leasing in the past, and Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) expressed some support for it during his 2013 election campaign.

Northam said questions concerning shares of new federal oil and gas revenue and royalties for Virginia from areas offshore to help coastal communities, businesses, and residents withstand impacts also need to be answered.

“I understand this process can be reevaluated in just a couple of years,” he told Hopper before requesting that Virginia be excluded from the 2017-22 OCS leasing program.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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