On the same day that Governor McDonnell announced that offshore drilling for oil and gas would make Virginia the “Energy Capital of the East Coast,” opponents of drilling handed out monopoly money, labeling the Governor’s press conference a publicity stunt intended to distract the public from the major budget cuts and massive layoffs that McDonnell is proposing.
“The Monopoly money we are handing out today is worth more than the paper the Governor’s legislation is written on,” said Glen Besa, Virginia Director of the Sierra Club.
The legislation the Governor signed today puts the state on record as supporting drilling for oil 50 miles off the Virginia coast, even though the actual decision to drill rests with the federal government. The legislation also establishes a formula for the allocation of future oil and gas royalties with 70% going to state transportation.
But, federal law does not allow for revenue sharing, with the exception of four Gulf States. Congress recently reaffirmed this position in 2009 when a Senate panel rejected by almost 2:1 a proposal to expand revenue sharing to other states. It is highly unlikely that revenue sharing would be extended to Virginia anytime in the near future.
“At a time when the state needs real economic growth plans and investments in clean energy development, Governor McDonnell is promising millions of dollars in oil money he knows he can not deliver,” said Besa. “Even if revenue sharing were allowed, no money would be generated for at least ten years, pending completion of the necessary environmental review and exploration before anyone could start pumping oil.”
“Investing in energy efficiency, offshore wind, and other renewable sources is by far a quicker way to bring jobs to Virginians, put money in the pockets of homeowners and businesses – not to mention a safer way to reduce long-term energy demand and costs,” said Marirose Pratt, staff attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center. In contrast to the dearth of oil and gas resources off Virginia’s coast, the wind energy potential is significant, and could supply at least 20 percent of Virginia’s electricity demand every year, she said.
“Here in Virginia, the focus has been mistakenly aimed at the false promises of revenue from the production of oil and gas offshore,” stated Environment Virginia Advocate J.R. Tolbert. “The debate has largely ignored how essential a healthy ocean is to our coastal economy, and how much we risk ignoring this fact. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita caused extensive damage to the Gulf, including roughly 17,700 barrels of petroleum products spilled from platforms, rigs, and pipelines.”
Drilling off Virginia’s coast could also drive away the U.S. Navy and NASA, which use the area for training and rocket testing. Both have opposed offshore drilling because of the adverse impacts to naval operations and NASA flight corridors there. Virginia’s offshore wind resources can be developed without these conflicts.
“This is a publicity stunt plain and simple, a grand distraction intended to divert attention from his disastrous budget and to make Virginians believe that McDonnell is actually doing something to solve the budget crisis,” said Glen Besa, Virginia Sierra Club Director.