Obama administration cancels oil and gas exploration off Virginia coast

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Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced Wednesday that the Obama administration would stop plans for oil and gas drilling in the mid- and South Atlantic regions, as well as the eastern Gulf of Mexico.

The plan reverses an announcement by the administration in March that it would begin exploring for oil and gas in those regions, which included Virginia.

Salazar said the administration is revising its plan in the wake of BP’s Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf of Mexico, which caused 11 deaths and resulted in an estimated 206 million gallons of oil being spilled into the Gulf.

“As a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill we learned a number of lessons, most importantly that we need to proceed with caution and focus on creating a more stringent regulatory regime,” Salazar said in a statement.

Salazar said that no oil and gas leases in the Mid and South Atlantic will be scheduled in the 2007-2012 program or the 2012-2017 program, but the Interior Department will move forward with an environmental analysis for seismic studies in Outer Continental Shelf in the regions to support conventional and renewable energy planning.

Gov. Bob McDonnell said the administration’s decision would harm Virginia’s economy, preventing the creation of thousands of jobs.

“Virginians support the development of our offshore resources,” McDonnell said in a statement. “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.”

McDonnell’s full statement can be read below:

“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 U.S. 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.”

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