Virginia Sierra Club Applauds Obama’s Decision on Drilling

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    From J.R. Tolbert of the Virginia Sierra Club, responding to President Obama’s announcement earlier today to not pursue offshore drilling in the Atlantic and Eastern Gulf Coast for at least seven years.

    This is a very prudent decision by the White House as it protects both pillars of Virginia’s economy, namely its tourism and military” said J.R. Tolbert, Assistant Director with the Virginia Chapter Sierra Club. “The President’s announcement essentially institutes a seven year ban on drilling off our coast. Given last week’s DOI announcement regarding the streamlining of offshore wind project permitting, in that seven years’ time, tens of thousands of Virginia residents could be reaping the tremendous benefits of clean energy and clean energy jobs.  We urge Governor McDonnell to aggressively pursue making Virginia the renewable energy capital of the East Coast, beginning with our abundant offshore wind resources.

    UPDATE: The Chesapeake Climate Action Network weighs in on the “flip” – “We fully support the Obama administration’s prudent announcement today to withdraw oil and gas lease sales in the Mid- and South-Atlantic planning areas, including the fragile coastline of Virginia.”

    UPDATE #2: A new report by the National Wildlife Federation estimates that Virginia has 26.1 gigawatts of wind power generation capacity potential in shallow waters off our coast. That’s nearly 3 gigawatts more electric generating capacity than currently exists in Virginia as a whole! And, unlike dirty coal-fired power generation, wind is clean and doesn’t pollute. Also, unlike offshore oil drilling, wind doesn’t spill and cause environmental disasters. Is this a no-brainer or what?!?

    We fully support the Obama administration’s prudent announcement today to withdraw oil and gas lease sales in the Mid- and South-Atlantic planning areas, including the fragile coastline of Virginia.  While not a permanent ban, this is certainly a step in the right direction and will delay drilling for at least seven years in this region.

    The Deepwater Horizon spill highlighted the massive risks of oil drilling — risks we cannot afford to take in Virginia. The Port of Hampton Roads is the third largest port in the nation and Virginia boasts a $19 billion tourism industry. It never made sense to put those industries at risk for what the oil industry itself estimates to be less than one month’s worth of national demand, and we are pleased that the Obama administration is acting on the side of caution.

    Now Virginia and other Atlantic coast states can focus on the real solution to offshore energy development: wind power. Conservative estimates show Virginia could produce enough offshore wind energy to power 750,000 homes forever or 3.6 million electric cars while creating thousands of jobs and preserving bird and marine habitats.