The Virginia Senate on Wednesday failed to override Gov. Mark Warner’s veto of a bill that advocated removing the ban on natural gas exploration and production (E&P) off of the state’s coastline.

By a vote of 20-16, the Senate ended a drive in the current session by Sen. Frank Wagner, R-Virginia Beach, who sponsored the bill, to open up the gas-rich areas of the state’s offshore region to producers.

It would have been a “huge embarrassment for the sitting governor” to have his veto overridden, Wagner said. A number of colleagues supported his measure, but said “I’m not going to embarrass the governor.”

This is not the end of the road for the legislation, Wagner told NGI. If Congress fails to pass legislation this year to make more offshore areas accessible, “I will be back next year with this bill,” he said.

“I plan to spend my personal time advocating for this” while the Virginia General Assembly is out of session, Wagner noted. “This is too…important to be partisan.”

Even though his bill was vetoed by Warner, Wagner said he did not consider it a defeat. “I think the bill has accomplished a lot of what I wanted to get done,” and that is to put the spotlight on natural gas and initiate an “open discussion,” he said.

Warner, in his veto message, indicated that he would keep an open mind on drilling off the Eastern Seaboard. In fact, the state’s secretary of Commerce and Trade has been directed to conduct a study of the possibility for exploring for natural gas in coastal areas of Virginia. The secretary is scheduled to complete the report by Nov. 30 of this year, and submit it (along with recommended legislation) to the General Assembly.

Wagner’s bill (SB 1054) supported congressional passage of the proposed federal State Enhanced Authority for Coastal and Offshore Resources Act (SEACOR), which would give states more control over their offshore oil and gas resources, and a greater share of the revenues from leasing activities.

In the U.S. Senate Wednesday, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) introduced stand-alone legislation that would allow coastal states, such as Virginia, to opt out of the federal moratorium on oil and gas leasing (see Daily GPI, April 7). Although he had not seen the complete bill yet, Wagner said he was encouraged by the measure’s language.

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