Congressman Jim Moran, Virginia Democrat and Chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior and the Environment released new information today detailing the military's objections to drilling in the area off Virginia's coast known as "Lease Sale 220." The report, presented in a DoD briefing with Moran, indicates that almost 80 percent of the proposed drilling area scheduled to be sold as part of the OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Program 2007-2012 would infringe on US Navy operations. Congressman Moran released a map summarizing the findings, along with a letter to Governor McDonnell detailing the military's concerns.
"The unimpeded operation of the US Navy off the coast of Virginia is far more important to the Commonwealth's economy than even the most optimistic revenue estimates that might come from offshore drilling more than a decade from now," said Moran.
The Congressman has long argued that the military's investment in the Tidewater area would be jeopardized by expanded commercial drilling in the Virginia Capes Operating Area.
In the past, the Navy and NASA have expressed concerns about drilling off the shore of Virginia. The document obtained by Moran details the first comprehensive DoD survey conducted on areas in the Virginia Capes, including Lease Sale 220, which could be opened to drilling as early as 2012.
Seventy-eight percent of the proposed Lease Sale 220 site overlaps with military operations which would be impeded by drilling structures and related activities. Most of the remaining area consists of major shipping lanes trafficked by commercial vessels and used by the Coast Guard.
According to the DoD report, Lease Sale 220 would either interfere or prohibit the Navy from conducting live ordnance tests, aircraft carrier qualifications, sensitive undersea and surface operations, shipboard qualification tests and other equipment testing and evaluation.
Virginia now hosts five US Navy aircraft carriers, but that figure could go down to three if one goes to the West Coast, as expected, and Virginia loses its battle to keep a second carrier from going to Mayport, Florida. Each carrier represents roughly $900 million in economic activity.
The Interior Department has suspended activities relating to Lease Sale 220 due to the BP blowout in the Gulf Coast. Yet the Interior Department continues to state that the suspension may not delay the eventual sale of the proposed Lease Sale 220 area.
Governor McDonnell has touted offshore development as a solution to Virginia's budget and transportation problems. But Moran has raised serious concerns that this funding is illusory:
"The Commonwealth needs a real transportation plan, based on real revenue, not pie in the sky estimates of revenues that wouldn't be realized for a decade, if ever."
Mr. Moran sent the following letter to Governor McDonnell:
May 18, 2010
The Honorable Robert F. McDonnell
Patrick Henry Building, 3rd Floor
1111 East Broad Street
Richmond, VA 23219
Dear Governor McDonnell:
Late last week I was briefed by Defense Department officials on their concerns with the proposed Lease Sale 220 for oil and gas development off Virginia's waters. As you know, the Navy depends upon an area off the Virginia coast known as the "Virginia Capes" for important naval operations. Specifically, the area proposed for Lease Sale 220 and sections of the Virginia Capes overlap extensively and would either interfere or prohibit the Navy from conducting live ordnance tests, aircraft carrier qualifications, sensitive undersea and surface operations, shipboard qualification tests and other equipment testing and evaluation.
While we disagree on the risk versus reward of any potential economic benefits from offshore oil drilling for Virginia, I trust you would agree that the presence of the Department of Defense in the Commonwealth is of greater benefit than anything that could be derived from offshore drilling. As a participant in the Virginia delegation's fight to prevent the Navy from relocating an aircraft carrier from Norfolk to Mayport, Florida, you are well aware what's at stake for the state's economy, particularly in the Hampton Roads area, if our efforts fail.
In light of these mutual concerns, enclosed is a map summarizing the portions of Lease Sale 220 and the Virginia Capes found by the military to be unacceptable for drilling operations. As you can see, 78 percent of the lease sale area, which was included in the OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Program 2007-2012 would preclude military operations. In addition, the area which does not affect DOD activities does include major shipping lanes trafficked by commercial vessels and used by the Coast Guard.
As a result of DOD's careful analysis and specific concerns, I encourage you to join me in registering these concerns with the Minerals Management Service as they refine the scoping process for the proposed Lease Sale 220.
James P. Moran
Cc: Elizabeth Birnbaum, Director, Minerals Management Service
Senator Jim Webb
Senator Mark Warner
Rep. Frank Wolf
Rep. Rick Boucher
Rep. Bobby Scott
Rep. Bob Goodlatte
Rep. Randy Forbes
Rep. Eric Cantor
Rep. Rob Wittman
Rep. Gerry Connolly
Rep. Glenn Nye
Rep. Tom Perriello