The House has introduced legislation that would open federal waters off the coast of Virginia to oil and natural gas development, and the Senate is expected to offer a companion bill in the coming weeks.

Virginia lawmakers in Congress and at the state level have pressured the Interior Department to open Virginia’s coastal waters to offshore development, but so far they have been unsuccessful (see Daily GPI, July 7, 2011).

The Virginia Jobs and Energy Act (HR 1782), which was introduced by Rep. Scott Rigell (R-VA), mandates that Lease Sale 220 be conducted within one year, and it requires that one additional lease sale be held in each subsequent five-year oil and gas leasing program. It also would allow for the sharing of royalties with coastal states that permit offshore development; and it would create the Virginia Lease Sale Planning Area to give planning for future leases exclusively to the Commonwealth of Virginia.

The measure would create as many as 18,000 jobs while moving the nation away from its dependence on foreign oil, Rigell said. Co-sponsors of the bill are Republican Reps. Rob Wittman, Robert Hurt and Morgan Griffith, all of Virginia.

Rigell said his desire to open coastal energy for Virginia is shared by both of Virginia’s Democratic Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, as well as Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell.

“We should keep moving forward on bipartisan efforts to responsibly develop our offshore energy resources, and I’m pleased that our delegation is united in the belief that Virginia should have an opportunity to share in any potential revenues. We will be introducing similar legislation on the Senate side of Capitol Hill in coming weeks,” he said.

McDonnell echoed that support, saying that he applauded Rigell “for his ongoing leadership on this crucial issue.”

During the last Congress, Rigell introduced similar legislation (HR 3882) after the Obama administration had shut down exploration off of Virginia’s coast. Provisions of the bill passed the House in 2012 as part of a larger House energy package, but it failed to make it out of Congress.

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