The outcome was predictable. “More energy equals more jobs for Virginia,” Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling declared.
Bolling made these remarks and professed his everlasting devotion to Big Oil at a forum held last week to promote oil and natural gas drilling off the coast of Virginia. Bolling, along with Republican Gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell, has adopted Sen. John McCain’s platform when it comes to offshore exploration: “Drill, baby, drill!”
The event with Bolling was sponsored by Virginia Manufacturers Association and the Southeast Energy Alliance. Both groups support off-shore drilling. Representatives from the state’s environmental community, who oppose drilling, chose to skip the event rather than give the impression that the event has any legitimacy among the environmental community.
Although the Federal government once had a moratorium on drilling of Virginia’s coast — it was imposed in 1981 — the moratorium expired last year. Offshore drilling is actively being supported by the state’s Republicans and business interests and opposed by the state’s environmental groups, among others.
Democrats in Virginia are divided over this issue. Gubernatorial candidates Brian Moran, who was named a “legislative hero” by the League of Conservation Voters and has been given a 100% rating by the group, opposes drilling. Although Creigh Deeds received an 89% rating by the group in its most recent scorecard, I couldn’t find any statement from him on this issue. Terry McAuliffe’s website is also silent on drilling offshore. (This ambiguity is backed up by statements made to the Washington Post by McAuliffe and the Deeds campaign.)
In January, the Southern Environmental Law Center, the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club, Virginia League of Conservation Voters, and Environment Virginia, filed comments in a U.S. Department of Interior regulatory proceeding which will determine the proposed scope of an environmental impact statement which must be filed as part of an offshore drilling application. In their joint comments, the environmental groups said, the risks of drilling to the state’s $16.5 billion tourism industry and nearly $2 billion fishing industry, “far outweigh the benefit of extracting the relatively low amounts of fossil fuel from the ocean depths off Virginia.”
In addition to these concerns, according to a briefing book prepared by the Virginia League of Conservation Voters, both the U.S. Navy and NASA are opposed to drilling off the shore of Virginia because of the risks to the Virginia CAPES area and Wallops Island, respectively.
In the same proceeding, Democratic Congressman Jim Moran and Democratic candidate for Governor Brian Moran also opposed drilling. Gov. Tim Kaine, for his part, is supportive of exploration for gas, but not oil, as long as the state’s law banning drilling within 50 miles of the coast is enforced by Federal authorities. Significantly, in December, he asked the Interior Department to slow down the process of leasing of Virginia’s offshore drilling rights.
Unfortunately, Norfolk’s new Democratic Congressman Glenn Nye joins with the state’s Republicans in endorsing drilling. Perhaps Rep. Nye and the Republicans should read this position paper from the Southern Environmental Law Center which lays out the case against drilling. For that matter, so should Terry McAuliffe and Creigh Deeds, because in my mind, their silence on this issue means one of two things: either they agree with the Republicans on this issue or their haven’t made up their minds.
This month, the Interior Department is hosting a series of public meetings on offshore drilling. In addition to participating in these meetings, you can submit comments on this matter until September. If you’re like me, and you’ve read the policy positions presented by the state’s environmental group, there’s no way you could endorse drilling off our coast.
Before you go, be sure to check out Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) disproving lies by former energy lobbyist and my muse, Nancy Pfotenhauer, who said that “we withstood Hurricane’s Rita and Katrina and we didn’t spill a drop.”
You can always count on Nancy for an outright lie on behalf of the GOP, the Grand Oil Party.