House Republicans Tuesday once again introduced legislation that would open the federal waters offshore Virginia to natural gas and crude oil exploration. The bill calls for the Interior Department to proceed with a Virginia offshore lease sale — the first lease sale conducted off the East Coast in 30 years — no later than one year after the passage of the bill.

Republican congressmen and Virginia state lawmakers have pushed for years to allow exploration and production in the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) off the Virginia coast, but have been blocked in their efforts by either Interior or the state’s governor, or both see Daily GPI, Aug. 4, 2008; April 6, 2005). The existing governor, Bob McDonnell, has signaled that he is more receptive to exploration and production off the East Coast (see Daily GPI, March 12, 2010).

Interior has estimated that Virginia’s OCS has 130 million bbl of recoverable oil and 1.14 Tcf of recoverable natural gas, said Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), the chief sponsor of the measure. Some estimates have shown that development of Virginia’s OCS will create more than 2,500 full-time equivalent positions on an annual basis, induce capital investment of $7.8 billion, yield nearly $645 million in direct and indirect payroll and result in more than $270 million in state and local taxes.

The legislation, the “Virginia Access to Energy Act,” authorizes that all revenue generated from extraction of the resources in Virginia’s OCS may be shared evenly with the state and federal governments.

In addition to Goodlatte, six other Republicans representing Virginia have co-sponsored the bill: Reps. Rob Wittman, Scott Rigell, Randy Forbes, Robert Hurt, Morgan Griffith and Frank Wolf.

“I believe that Virginia should have every tool available to access its energy supplies. The ‘Virginia Access to Energy Act’ will create a path for Virginia to become ‘the Energy Capital of the East Coast,'” Goodlatte said.

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