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Providing Virginia With the Tools to Access its Energy Supplies

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Every day folks across Virginia and the nation are confronted with the rising cost of energy, from the price at the pump to soaring electric bills. While the Majority in Congress has succeeded in strangling any efforts to tap into traditional energy resources in America, our nation's citizens have suffered. They have suffered with skyrocketing gas and food prices, and they have suffered from the fear that we are increasingly dependent on foreign and sometimes hostile nations for our oil supply and they want something done about it.

The Democratic Leadership in Congress can't get their act together to solve this problem for the nation. Instead of addressing the current energy crisis by allowing the House to vote on a comprehensive energy policy, the Speaker of the House adjourned the House of Representatives for five weeks. As a representative of the people of Virginia, I cannot stand by and simply watch this spectacle.

Last week I was pleased to introduce the Virginia Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Act, which allows Virginia to request oil and natural gas exploration activities off its coast. It has been estimated by the U.S. Department of Interior's Minerals Management Service that Virginia's OCS has 56 million barrels of recoverable oil and 327 billion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas.

Should exploration activities prove fruitful, then my legislation would allow Virginia to petition for drilling for these precious resources. The legislation does not mandate that Virginia explore or drill off its coast. It simply removes the federal government's longstanding barriers to these activities. The final decision of whether to explore or drill is placed squarely where it should be - in the hands of the people of Virginia, through our state legislature and Governor.

Virginians understand that a major component in lessening energy costs is to produce more energy. I believe that Virginia should have every tool available to access its energy supplies. Unfortunately, a Congressional moratorium on drilling in the OCS prevents the Commonwealth from having every tool available to address rising energy costs.

Additionally, the Virginia OCS Act states that all revenue generated from extraction of these resources are shared evenly with the state and federal government, with the federal share going to the Clean Energy Fund. The Commonwealth's share will be used to fund various state projects including transportation, education, tax reductions, coastal and environmental restoration, energy infrastructure and projects, alternative energy development, and energy efficiency and conservation.

While the Virginia OCS Act is no substitute for a comprehensive energy solution, it is an important component to any long-term strategy to reduce our dangerous dependence on foreign oil. I intend to keep working to develop legislation which will move America toward energy independence by increasing the supply, security and diversity of American energy, promoting conservation and putting real alternative fuel sources in the hands of consumers. This is the only way to lower costs.

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