Frustrated by postponement of an Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) lease sale for waters off the coast of Virginia, lawmakers have introduced a bill that would compel the Department of Interior to proceed with a sale within one year of the legislation's passage if the state's governor requests it.

In 2008 Congress and then President Bush removed hurdles blocking access to energy resources on the OCS. However, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has continued to postpone the Virginia lease sale. This delay is happening despite the strong support for the lease sale by the Virginia congressional delegation, the governor of Virginia, the Virginia General Assembly and the citizens of Virginia, said Rep. Bob Goodlatte, who on Thursday along with seven cosponsors introduced the Virginia Access to Energy Act (HR 4942)

"I believe that Virginia should have every tool available to access its energy supplies," the Republican lawmaker said.

The bill would authorize that all revenue generated from extraction of gas and oil may be shared evenly with the state and federal government, with the federal share going to an alternative energy fund and to deficit reduction. Seventy-five percent of Virginia's share would be used to fund state needs such as education, transportation, tax reductions, coastal and environmental restoration, energy infrastructure and projects, alternative energy development and energy efficiency and conservation. The other 25% would be split 12.5% to provide assistance to Virginia through the Land and Water Conservation Fund and 12.5% to a reserve fund to address other environmental issues.

The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources.

The National Ocean Industries Association (NOIA) voiced its support of the bill, which it said continues bipartisan effort of leaders including Gov. Bob McDonnell, Sens. Jim Webb (D-VA) and Mark Warner (D-VA) and state leaders in the Virginia General Assembly to move forward with offshore energy production.

"Two weeks ago, Governor McDonnell signed two state laws that virtually opened the door and put out the welcome mat to energy development off its shores [see NGI, March 15]," said NOIA President Randall Luthi. "Today, Virginia is still holding the door open and hoping the federal government will take a seat at the table."

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