BY WESLEY P. HESTER
U.S. Sens. Jim Webb and Mark R. Warner, both Democrats, are co-sponsoring legislation that would open energy production off the coast of Virginia.
The Offshore Petroleum Expansion Now Act of 2012, or OPEN Act, would replace the current five-year leasing plan, which excludes Virginia, and provide revenue sharing to all participating coastal states.
“Energy exploration and subsequent production within the Virginia Outer Continental Shelf — if coupled with environmental protections and an equitable formula for sharing revenues between the state and federal governments — would boost domestic energy supplies, while benefiting the Commonwealth’s economy,” Webb said.
“I believe that Virginians should benefit from any energy resources that are developed off of our coast, and this legislation requires the federal government to make reasonable royalty payments to the commonwealth,” added Warner.
Both senators and a wide array of elected leaders from both sides of the aisle, including Gov. Bob McDonnell and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-7th, have repeatedly urged the Obama administration to add Virginia to the list of states allowed to explore offshore energy production.
Last year, Webb and Warner sponsored a similar bill that gained no traction in congress.
The OPEN Act would provide a revenue share of 37.5 percent to any state with energy production off its coast, with the money going toward roads and infrastructure projects.
The House on Wednesday passed a different bill by a vote of 253-170 that would replace Obama’s offshore drilling plan and include Virginia.
Hailing the passage, Cantor remarked: “While President Obama has said no to thousands of new Virginia jobs, even threatening to veto this bill, a bipartisan majority of the House has said yes to opening our coasts to safe oil and natural gas production that will help bring down energy costs, increase energy production here at home and drive job creation in Virginia.”