Representative Scott Rigell (VA-2) introduced the Virginia Jobs and Energy Act (H.R. 1782) on Friday to open the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) off the coast of Virginia for energy development. Original co-sponsors of the bill include Virginia Representatives Rob Wittman (VA-1), Robert Hurt (VA-5), and Morgan Griffith (VA-9). Governor Bob McDonnell and Virginia's U.S. Senators, both Democrats, have signaled their support for similar legislation.
"The Virginia Jobs and Energy Act will bring Hampton Roads new jobs, and new energy," said Congressman Scott Rigell. "This legislation can produce as many as 18,000 local jobs while moving America away from its dangerous reliance on foreign oil. This translates into funds that could be used to improve local schools, fund transportation projects, and restore the Chesapeake Bay while diversifying the local economy," added Rigell.
In addition to mandating Lease Sale 220 be conducted within one year, the Virginia Jobs and Energy Act requires at least one additional lease sale be included within the Virginia Lease Sale Planning Area in each subsequent five year leasing plan. It also hastens the process for offshore renewable energy development, like wind.
Department of Defense (DOD) interests are protected under this legislation. The Virginia Jobs and Energy Act codifies the current agreement between the DOD and Department of Interior, which requires mutually acceptable solutions to any issues raised by conflicting requirements. Furthermore, this legislation requires the Secretary of Defense and Secretary of the Interior to periodically review and revise the agreement to account for new offshore energy production technologies, particularly renewable.
Enjoying significant bi-partisan support, Rigell's desire to open up coastal energy for Virginia is shared by both of Virginia's Democratic U.S. Senators as well as Governor Bob McDonnell, and others.
"We should keep moving forward on bipartisan efforts to responsibly develop our offshore energy resources, and I'm pleased that our delegation is united in the belief that Virginia should have an opportunity to share in any potential revenues. We will be introducing similar legislation on the Senate side of Capitol Hill in coming weeks," said U.S. Senator Mark Warner (D-VA).
On his Facebook page, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) added, "I believe development of offshore resources will be beneficial to Virginia's economy and our nation's energy security. I look forward to working with Rep. Rigell, Senator Warner and the rest of the Virginia delegation on advancing this priority in Congress."
Governor Bob McDonnell echoed that support: "I applaud Congressman Rigell for his ongoing leadership on this crucial issue. The responsible development of Virginia's offshore energy resources will mean more jobs in Hampton Roads and throughout the Commonwealth, and another step towards greater energy security for our nation. There is strong bipartisan support for offshore energy production in Virginia, and I thank Scott Rigell for standing up for more jobs and energy here at home."
"We've been hearing for as long as I've been in Hampton Roads, "We've got to diversify our economy,'" said Rigell. "Among all the alternatives, this represents the very best option for us to do that. It deserves the full support of a broad coalition of citizens and groups in our region."
Last Congress, Rigell introduced similar legislation, H.R. 3882, to open the OCS after the Obama Administration essentially shut down any further exploration off Virginia's coast. Provisions of H.R.3882 passed the House in 2012, as a part of a larger House Energy Package.
What the Virginia Jobs and Energy Act does:
*Requires the Secretary of the Interior to execute Lease Sale 220 within one year
*Requires one additional lease sale in each subsequent five year oil and gas leasing program
*Protects national security by ensuring that no lease may be conducted that would conflict with U.S. military operational requirements
*Provides for revenue sharing with coastal states off whose shore oil, gas, and wind energy is harvested
*Creates the Virginia Lease Sale Planning Area to give planning for future leases exclusively to the Commonwealth
*Fast tracks the process for developing renewable energy sources, like wind, off the coast of Virginia
What others are saying about the Virginia Jobs and Energy Act:
"There is no question of the strong, bipartisan support for safe energy development off the shores of Virginia," Rob Wittman (VA-1) said. "I am pleased to join with my colleagues to support this legislation that will help create jobs right here in Virginia, while lowering the cost of energy and diversifying the supply. A responsible, all-of-the-above energy policy must include dependable use of American resources, and this bill helps work toward responsible, common sense energy policy."
"Reliable, affordable energy is the lifeblood of a vibrant economy. By developing our American energy resources, including those off the coast of Virginia, we can ease the burden on our families, farmers, and small business owners by creating jobs, reducing the cost of fuel, and spurring economic growth," Stated Representative Robert Hurt (VA-5). "I look forward to working with my colleagues on this legislation so that we may pave the path to energy independence and get our economy going again."
"A strong national energy policy is a key component of a thriving economy, and must include coal, gas, and oil." Representative Morgan Griffith (VA-9) said. "We in the Commonwealth of Virginia have an abundance of these resources at our disposal -- we must simply promote policies like the Virginia Jobs and Energy Act to get the government out of the way and permit us to tap into these energy sources."
"Our region is united in our desire to find new ways to diversify our local economy and create jobs," said Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms. "I appreciate Congressman Rigell moving that goal forward with his recent energy legislation."