U.S. Sens. Jim Webb (D-VA) and Mark R. Warner (D-VA) today cosponsored the introduction of The Offshore Petroleum Expansion Now Act of 2012, or the OPEN Act. The bipartisan legislation would expand American offshore energy production with a revised five-year leasing plan and provide revenue sharing to all participating coastal states. The bill provides an alternative to the Administration's proposed 2012-2017 offshore oil and gas leasing plan, which excludes Virginia.
"I have long advocated opening up more of the nation's outer continental shelf resources to responsible natural gas and oil exploration," said Senator Jim Webb. "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."
"Our economy and national security will be strengthened by an "all-of-the-above' approach to energy, including the expanded production of our own domestic energy resources," said Senator Mark Warner. "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."
Senator Webb and Senator Warner have repeatedly urged the Obama Administration to keep Virginia's Outer Continental lease sale on schedule. In January, they wrote a joint letter to the Administration calling for the Interior Secretary to include Virginia in its offshore energy plan. In July 2011, the senators introduced the Virginia Outer Continental Shelf Energy Production Act of 2011, which included revenue-sharing provisions and would expand the federal government's map of the mid-Atlantic exploration area to more accurately reflect the extent of Virginia's coastal resources. In 2008, Senator Webb cosponsored similar legislation with Republican Senator John Warner.
The OPEN Act provides revenue sharing (37.5 percent) to any state with energy production off its coast. The revenue sharing language is technology neutral, covering all forms of energy production, including offshore wind energy.