Virginia Sierra Club Applauds Obama’s Decision on Drilling


    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.

    • of McDonnell’s supposed plan for offshore drilling in VA.  Of course, McDonnell released a statement that he was “extremely disappointed” with the decision that he sees as irresponsible.  Given what we’ve seen lately, I’d say this is one of the most environmentally responsible decisions of the Obama administration to date.

    • I offer my praise for the new revised OCS drilling plan. It clearly reflects the lessons learned from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster and recognizes the inherent risks of drilling in environmentally restricted areas and where economic and national security interests are in conflict.  The Defense Department has expressed strong reservations about drilling off Virginia’s coast, finding it incompatible with military operations and readiness.  With this action by the Secretary, no drilling will occur off the Mid-Atlantic and Virginia through 2017.

      The announcement confines new drilling to areas adjacent to where drilling is already established and where the new Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement (BOEMRE) and the oil and gas industry should be concentrating their resources to ensure another BP disaster is avoided.

      I have long opposed drilling offshore, and included a congressional moratorium in the Interior and Environment Appropriations bill that was approved by the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, which I chair, on July 22, 2010.  I also remain concerned that drilling in the Arctic, given its severe weather conditions and remote location, will challenge the credibility of any oil spill response plan.  I will continue to cast a critical eye on any new plans in the Beaufort Sea and Chukchi Sea.

    • Today, anyone who loves our beaches, who fishes in the ocean or who depends on a healthy coastal economy can thank the Obama administration for protecting the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and the west coast of Florida from oil drilling. The BP disaster earlier this year was a tragic reminder that drilling is a dirty and dangerous business.  The only way to truly keep our coasts and ocean ecosystems safe is to keep them rig free.  At the same time, the Obama administration’s support for offshore wind is a sensible path towards clean energy that will create jobs and keep our coasts healthy.

      Beyond the obvious environmental arguments, our research makes clear that clean beaches and healthy oceans are much more valuable than drilling for the last drops of oil off our coasts.  Oil drilling is simply not worth the risk to vibrant tourism and fishing businesses along our coasts.

      I am pleased that Secretary Salazar looked at the science, analyzed the economics and listened to the outpouring of opposition to offshore drilling from around the country and world in making his decision. Reacting to what we now know to be the largest oil disaster in world history in the Gulf, in mid-June, tens of thousands of people joined their hands across the sands on over 900 beaches worldwide to protest drilling. In late June, more than 400,000 people from across the U.S. sent comments to the Secretary and President Obama asking them to stop drilling in new places along our shores.  Today’s decision is a victory for the American public and our precious coasts.

      We will continue to work to convince the Administration to protect Alaska’s coasts from drilling and to protect whales, dolphins and other marine species from seismic testing.  But today, we celebrate this administration’s emphasis on renewable, offshore wind energy from the ocean over a reliance on expanded drilling for dirty fossil fuels.  This is a triumph of common sense policy in our fight against global warming and a clear triumph for clean beaches, coasts and marine wildlife.

      Link to Environment Virginia

    • This statement from his office:

      “Senator Warner will continue to … explore ways to re-examine this decision.”  Does this mean he wants to undermine the President?

    • of President Obama capitulating to Republicans while getting nothing in return. I’m glad this policy was reversed, but sorry it took the Gulf oil disaster to make it happen.

    • From the Roanoke Free Press, somebody call a waaaaaaaaaaaaambulance for Dirty Energy Bob McDonnell!

      I am extremely disappointed that the Obama Administration has unilaterally blocked environmentally responsible, and economically crucial, offshore energy exploration and development in Virginia, along the Atlantic Coast and throughout other broad swaths of offshore territory nationwide. This is an irresponsible and short-sighted decision. It demonstrates a complete lack of confidence in the entrepreneurial spirit of American industry and its ability to fix the problems experienced in the Gulf spill, and no confidence in the ability of the U.S. government to better plan for and react to offshore emergencies. I personally relayed this message to Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar during our phone conversation shortly before the announcement was made today.

      This decision comes in the midst of one of the toughest economies in our history. The cost of today’s decision will be seen in major lost job opportunities, surrendered economic growth, and increased dependence on foreign sources of energy, from nations often hostile to American interests.

      Advances in technology continue to make offshore energy production more cost effective and safe. Instead of using that technology to produce more energy in a responsible manner here at home, this Administration apparently prefers that we continue to depend more and more on oil from other nations and foreign cartels with far-less stringent environmental regulations and policies. Further, the Administration’s policy of permitting thousands of oil and gas platforms in the Gulf and Alaska, but none off the Atlantic Coast, makes no sense. Punishing an entire industry because of the actions of one company is not good policy.

      Virginians support the development of our offshore resources. They know that it would mean thousands of good paying jobs in our Commonwealth and billions in economic impact. Now, the White House has said no to that progress. They have closed the door on an industry poised to breathe new life into our economy and improve American security. This decision calls into serious question the priorities and focus of the Obama Administration. Americans want new jobs created, our economy improved, and more reliable sources of domestic energy utilized. I strongly urge the White House to reconsider this decision. We now look to our US. Senators and Congressmen, who will be playing significant leadership roles in the new Congress, to work on a legislative fix of this decision in order for Virginia to move forward on domestic energy production off our coast, and the creation of thousands of new jobs that will come with it. Left to stand, this policy will have a real, negative impact on the people of our state and this nation. It is the wrong decision at the wrong time.

      So, with offshore oil revenues and liquor privatization revenues off the table, what does “Bob’s for Jobs” have left up his sleeve?  Subsidies to Steven Spielberg to make a movie in Virginia, and maybe serve Virginia wine on the set while he does?  Of course, McDonnell could always raise revenues the old fashioned way, by increasing taxes, but since it’s part of his religion that taxes are evilevilevilliberalevilcommieliberalevil, that’s not gonna happen. Which leaves….???? That’s right, NOTHING!

    • VADEM

      an excellent article at Mother Jones on Kookanelli. We look damn stupid for electing him.

    • Great Scott!  That’s enough to power my flux capacitor!

    • kindler

      …is to take things off the table before you even begin the negotiation. That’s what they do every day — just look at their opposition to the arms treaty with Russia.

      This “Don’t Drill, Baby, Don’t Drill” decision, besides being the right policy is also a very good sign of this Administration finally learning how to play hardball with those who play no other game.