Just eight months ago, Gov. Bob McDonnell stood on the south portico of the State Capitol and praised the Obama administration for its decision to open waters off Virginia’s coast to oil and gas exploration.
Today, the governor lashed out at the administration for reversing course and deciding against pursuing oil and gas drilling off the Atlantic coast for at least seven years. Among other things, McDonnell said the decision “demonstrates a complete lack of confidence in the entrepreneurial spirit of American industry and its ability to fix the problems experienced in the Gulf spill, and no confidence in the ability of the U.S. government to better plan for and react to offshore emergencies.” Here’s the governor’s full statement:
“I am extremely disappointed that the Obama Administration has unilaterally blocked environmentally responsible, and economically crucial, offshore energy exploration and development in Virginia, along the Atlantic Coast and throughout other broad swaths of offshore territory nationwide. This is an irresponsible and short-sighted decision. It demonstrates a complete lack of confidence in the entrepreneurial spirit of American industry and its ability to fix the problems experienced in the Gulf spill, and no confidence in the ability of the U.S. government to better plan for and react to offshore emergencies. I personally relayed this message to Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar during our phone conversation shortly before the announcement was made today.
This decision comes in the midst of one of the toughest economies in our history. The cost of today’s decision will be seen in major lost job opportunities, surrendered economic growth, and increased dependence on foreign sources of energy, from nations often hostile to American interests.
Advances in technology continue to make offshore energy production more cost effective and safe. Instead of using that technology to produce more energy in a responsible manner here at home, this Administration apparently prefers that we continue to depend more and more on oil from other nations and foreign cartels with far-less stringent environmental regulations and policies. Further, the Administration’s policy of permitting thousands of oil and gas platforms in the Gulf and Alaska, but none off the Atlantic Coast, makes no sense. Punishing an entire industry because of the actions of one company is not good policy.
Virginians support the development of our offshore resources. They know that it would mean thousands of good paying jobs in our Commonwealth and billions in economic impact. Now, the White House has said no to that progress. They have closed the door on an industry poised to breathe new life into our economy and improve American security. This decision calls into serious question the priorities and focus of the Obama Administration. Americans want new jobs created, our economy improved, and more reliable sources of domestic energy utilized. I strongly urge the White House to reconsider this decision. We now look to our US. Senators and Congressmen, who will be playing significant leadership roles in the new Congress, to work on a legislative fix of this decision in order for Virginia to move forward on domestic energy production off our coast, and the creation of thousands of new jobs that will come with it. Left to stand, this policy will have a real, negative impact on the people of our state and this nation. It is the wrong decision at the wrong time.”
Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling also weighed in:
“I am very disappointed that the Obama Administration has refused to move forward with the responsible development of our nation’s offshore energy resources. This is a baseless, misguided and short-sighted decision that will leave our nation dependent on foreign sources of energy, leave significant economic benefits associated with offshore energy development unrealized in Virginia and deny the creation of thousands of new jobs for Virginians.
“Governor McDonnell and I continue to support the responsible development of Virginia’s offshore energy resources. We believe that this can be done safely, and we know that development of these resources will help our country achieve a greater degree of energy security, while helping Virginia achieve a greater degree of economic security, including billions of dollars in capital investment, thousands of new jobs and millions of dollars in state and local tax revenue.
“Unfortunately, as a result of the President’s unjustified decision, these considerable resources will remain unutilized and our over-dependence on foreign sources of energy will continue. This is another example of the Obama Administration pursuing anti-business policies that will perpetuate our current economic malaise.”
A spokesman for U.S. Sen. Mark Warner said late this afternoon that Warner will work with McDonnell and members of the state’s congressional delegation “to explore ways to re-examine this decision.”
“Mid-Atlantic coastal oil and gas production does not represent a ‘silver bullet’ solution to our energy challenges, and while it is appropriate to take the time to incorporate lessons learned from the Gulf disaster, Senator Warner sees no reason to delay this process for what realistically could be another seven years or more,” spokesman Kevin Hall said.
As you might expect, environmental groups applauded the decision. Here’s how the Virginia chapter of the Sierra Club reacted:
“This is a very prudent decision by the White House as it protects both pillars of Virginia’s economy, namely its tourism and military” said J.R. Tolbert, Assistant Director with the Virginia Chapter Sierra Club. “The President’s announcement essentially institutes a seven year ban on drilling off our coast. Given last week’s DOI announcement regarding the streamlining of offshore wind project permitting, in that seven years’ time, tens of thousands of Virginia residents could be reaping the tremendous benefits of clean energy and clean energy jobs. We urge Governor McDonnell to aggressively pursue making Virginia the renewable energy capital of the East Coast, beginning with our abundant offshore wind resources.”