U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Director Tommy Beaudreau visited Norfolk today to announce that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM)'s has issued a draft programmatic environmental impact statement (PEIS) for seismic surveys in the mid and south Atlantic. This is a small step forward to advancing seismic research and geological work needed before oil and gas reserves off the Atlantic Coast could be developed to meet the nation's growing energy needs. The move comes after the Obama Administration had previously cancelled a scheduled offshore lease sale for Virginia in 2011, delaying any possible development opportunities of offshore oil and gas resources until 2018 at the earliest. In response to today's announcement, Governor Bob McDonnell issued the following statement:
"It is encouraging that Secretary Salazar visited Virginia today to announce a small step forward in the development of our offshore energy resources. Unfortunately this small step forward follows many previous steps back. Virginia was poised to become the first state on the east coast to produce oil and natural gas offshore. This breakthrough would have led to the creation of thousands of new jobs in our state, generated significant new revenues for state and local governments, and led to more domestic energy production. Instead, this Administration cancelled Virginia's scheduled lease sale for 2011, and pushed any possible lease sales to 2018, at the very earliest. With gas hitting $4 a gallon that seven-year self-ordered delay is more noticeable than ever. We should be looking for every opportunity to safely produce more domestic energy. Our citizens need the jobs; our nation needs the energy. Instead, the Obama Administration declared a seven-year timeout. That was the wrong decision. There is broad bipartisan support in Virginia for developing our offshore energy resources and Virginians support this common sense policy. We will continue to aggressively seek the lifting of these federal limitations on offshore oil and gas development. These decisions are leaving private capital that could be invested in expanding our domestic energy resources on the sidelines at a time when private investment in business expansion and job creation is so urgently needed to heal our ailing economy.
While we continue to be incredibly disappointed by last year's decision, I do want to thank the Obama Administration for their announcement today. This is an opportunity to move forward from a bad decision. When it is finalized later this year, this environmental document will provide the foundation for BOEM to permit seismic surveys and other geological and geophysical activity to support development of offshore, oil, gas and renewable energy projects. With American families and businesses facing the prospect of paying $4 per gallon for gas and continuing to reel from our uncertain economy, it is imperative that the Obama administration move more aggressively to permit the responsible development of more of our domestic energy resources. Virginia stands ready to partner with the federal government to develop our oil and gas resource in a safe and environmentally responsible manner."
Development of Virginia's offshore oil and gas resource is part of the governor's "all-of-the-above" energy plan initiated in January 2010. This plan promotes the development of all of Virginia's on-shore and off-shore conventional and renewable energy resources with the goal of making Virginia the energy capitol of the East Coast.
According to a recent poll by the American Petroleum Institute, 80 percent of Virginia voters favor more development of U.S. oil and natural gas resources, and similar numbers believe more oil and natural gas development would provide major benefits to the nation, including more U.S. jobs.
Resource estimates of the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf are hindered by a lack of data, especially the newer seismic exploration technologies that industry has developed which could be used to explore the resources off Virginia's coast once this environmental work is completed. Current estimates for undiscovered, technically recoverable resources off the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf include 3.8 billion barrels of oil and 36.9 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.