Virginia’s senators, both Democrats, on Wednesday introduced legislation to provide an alternative to the Obama administration’s proposed 2012-2017 offshore oil and gas leasing plan, which excludes Virginia. According to the Energy Information Administration, “resource assessments show that substantial oil and gas reserves could underlie the land beneath Virginia’s offshore waters, which are part of the federally administered Mid-Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf.”

“I have long advocated for additional exploration and the responsible production of domestic energy resources off of Virginia’s coast,” said Sen. Mark Warner. “Our legislation includes appropriate environmental protections and an equitable formula for sharing revenues between the state and federal governments. I believe that changes in the membership of the Senate after the 2012 elections have helped to produce a potentially more supportive atmosphere for our legislation.”

The Virginia Outer Continental Shelf Energy Production Act of 2013 would expand U.S. offshore energy production with a revised five-year leasing plan and provide revenue sharing. The bill is similar to House legislation recently proposed by U.S. Rep. Scott Rigell (R-VA) (see Daily GPI, April 30). The legislation would provide revenue sharing (37.5%) to Virginia, using a similar formula to what Gulf Coast states currently collect. The revenue sharing language is technology-neutral, covering all forms of energy production, including offshore wind energy.

“Virginia is well positioned to be a national leader in offshore energy exploration. A comprehensive energy strategy — including oil, gas, wind, solar, tidal and other areas — can transition us to a clean energy future while bridging that transition with secure U.S. fuels we don’t have to import,” said Sen. Tim Kaine. “Virginia’s diverse energy portfolio is a model for the nation. This legislation will bolster our energy security, create jobs and direct revenues to Virginia that will support important priorities across the state.”

Warner and Kaine have been supporters of offshore wind power for the Virginia coast, and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has recently announced that it is continuing to move forward with a plan to offer a wind energy research lease to the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Department of Mines Minerals and Energy.

Warner introduced similar legislation in 2011 (see Daily GPI, July 7, 2011) and 2012. Sales of leases off the Virginia coast were scheduled to begin in 2011 but were withheld until 2017 after the Macondo well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

The Warner/Kaine legislation requires “appropriate environmental reviews” before any production could begin, as well as consultation with relevant federal agencies and others to ensure that energy exploration or production does not disrupt federal activities along the Virginia coast, the senators said.

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