By Carol Vaughn —
Nine Virginia elected officials, including Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine and Rep. Elaine Luria, wrote to President Donald Trump this week asking him to extend a moratorium on offshore oil and gas drilling to Virginia, according to a press release.
The letter follows Trump’s decision to exempt three states — Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina — from a plan to open more than 90 percent of the Outer Continental Shelf to oil and gas leasing.
Gov. Ralph Northam, members of Virginia’s congressional delegation, and Virginia coastal communities, whose industries would be impacted by the proposal, all have requested Virginia be exempted from the plan.
“In Virginia, more than 20 communities have officially voiced their opposition to offshore drilling, including the Commonwealth’s most populous cities, Virginia Beach and Norfolk. In addition, Virginia’s General Assembly passed a law earlier this year that would prohibit oil and gas drilling and related infrastructure in Virginia waters,” wrote the lawmakers.
“Offshore oil and gas drilling threatens the Commonwealth’s economy, natural resources, and military assets. Virginia’s coastal communities rely predominantly on industries that would be affected by your proposal including tourism, recreation, commercial fishing, aquaculture, and deepwater port commerce. Further, the Department of Defense’s analysis has shown that oil and gas leasing off the coast of Virginia could potentially disrupt military operations, training, and testing activities critical to the U.S. military’s readiness and our national security,” the letter went on to say.
“For these reasons and more, Virginians are overwhelmingly opposed to your administration’s proposal to expand offshore drilling off the Atlantic Coast. Virginia has been as vocal in its opposition to opening up its offshore area to oil and gas drilling as Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. Yet, Virginia has not received the same promises as these states,” the letter continued.
The Trump Administration in 2018 proposed opening more than 90% of the Outer Continental Shelf to oil and gas leasing.
The program was opposed by Republican and Democratic governors all along the Atlantic seaboard.
Offshore oil and gas drilling has also been opposed by more than 285 localities on the East Coast and Florida’s Gulf Coast, 2,300 elected officials, 46,000 businesses, and 500,000 fishing families along the East Coast, according to the release.
In response to news this week that North Carolina now also may be being considered for exemption, Oceana Action campaign director Diane Hoskins in a prepared statement said:
“What President Trump deems good enough for Florida and North Carolina should be good enough for all of our coasts’ economies. If it is true that the president has now withdrawn North Carolina from offshore drilling for 10 years, in addition to other recent states, that is welcome news.
“However, it was President Trump’s plan that put these states at risk of dangerous drilling in the first place. Other East and West Coast states remain vulnerable and deserve at least the same protections.”
Hoskins added, “After years of overwhelming bipartisan opposition from our coasts, the president is finally acknowledging the harm that comes with dirty and dangerous offshore drilling. It’s time for the president to formally withdraw his entire reckless offshore drilling plan and permanently protect our coasts.”
In a press release, Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) announced he spoke Monday with Trump and was informed that North Carolina will be included in a presidential memorandum withdrawing new leasing for offshore oil and gas developments for the next 12 years.
Oceana Action is the advocacy arm of Oceana, a nonprofit organization that works to protect and restore oceans.