Ending a decades old ban, President Obama announced this week that he’s open to expand oil and gas drilling along the Atlantic coast. With this in place, oil and gas drilling could take place as close as 50 miles from the coast of Virginia shore. Obama called this legislation the first part in a broad strategy to reduce foreign-oil dependence.
"I want to emphasize that this announcement is part of a broader strategy that will move us from an economy that runs on fossil fuels and foreign oil to one that relies on homegrown fuels and clean energy,” he said yesterday in a speech at Joint Base Andrews Naval Air Facility Washington and said fisheries, tourism, and places off U.S. coasts that are "not appropriate" for development will be protected.
Still, predictably, the move has come with mixed reactions. Many politicians and energy business leaders in that area are excited about the opportunity. One such politician is Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell.
"I thank the President and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar for ensuring Virginia will be the first state on the East Coast to explore for and produce energy offshore. The President's decision to allow energy exploration off Virginia's coast will mean thousands of new jobs, hundreds of millions in new state revenue and tens of billions of dollars in economic impact for the Commonwealth. It will also help our nation take a further step towards energy independence,” stated McDonnell.
According to McDonnell, the natural gas will produce 2,600 jobs, $8 billion in capital investments, $644 million in payroll and $271 million in tax revenue over 10 years. Of course, environmental groups were decidedly against the move.
"It is truly disappointing to see this administration risk so much for so little. What we know about the minuscule amount of oil and gas in the Atlantic cannot justify the costs to our environment and our coastal economies, especially when there are better ways to meet energy needs for the long term, not just six days or even six months,” Southern Environmental Law Center attorney Marirose Pratt said to The Washington Post