Today Representative Bob Goodlatte introduced the "Virginia Access to Energy Act". This important legislation, H.R. 4942, removes the regulatory road blocks that are impeding the exploration for natural gas and crude oil in Virginia's waters of the Outer Continental Shelf. This bipartisan legislation requires the Department of Interior, at the request of Virginia's governor, to proceed with the Virginia lease sale no later than one year after passage of this legislation.
In 2008, it seemed that the Commonwealth would be able to make OCS development a reality when Congress, and then President George Bush, removed hurdles that had previously blocked access to energy resources located on the OCS. However, since that point, Virginia has been confronted with a series of regulatory road blocks. Although a lease sale has been proposed in Virginia's OCS, the first scheduled lease sale for energy development in the Atlantic, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has continued to postpone this Virginia lease sale. This delay is happening despite the strong support for the lease sale by the Virginia Congressional Delegation, the Governor of Virginia, the Virginia General Assembly, and the citizens of Virginia.
"Every day, folks across Virginia and the nation are confronted with the rising cost of energy, from the cost at the pump to soaring electric bills," said Congressman Goodlatte. "I believe that Virginia should have every tool available to access its energy supplies. The "Virginia Access to Energy Act' will remove the regulatory hurdles that have impeded development and create a path for Virginia to become "the Energy Capital of the East Coast.'"
It has been estimated by the U.S. Department of Interior's Minerals Management Service that Virginia's OCS has 130 million barrels of recoverable oil and 1.14 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas. This translates into a significant boost to the economy of the Commonwealth of Virginia. In fact, some estimates have shown that development of Virginia's OCS will create over 2,500 full-time equivalent positions on an annual basis, induce capital investment of $7.8 billion, yield nearly $645 million in direct and indirect payroll, and result in over $270 million in state and local taxes.
The "Virginia Access to Energy Act" authorizes that all revenue generated from extraction of these resources may be shared evenly with the state and federal government, with the federal share going to an Alternative Energy Fund and to deficit reduction. Seventy-five percent of the Commonwealth's share will be used to fund various state projects including education, transportation, tax reductions, coastal and environmental restoration, energy infrastructure and projects, alternative energy development, and energy efficiency and conservation. The other twenty-five percent would be split 12.5 percent to provide assistance to Virginia through the Land and Water Conservation Fund and 12.5 percent to a reserve fund to address other environmental issues.
Representatives Rob Wittman (VA-1), Glenn Nye (VA-2), Randy Forbes (VA-4), Tom Perriello (VA-5), Eric Cantor (VA-6), Rick Boucher (VA-9), and Frank Wolf (VA-10) joined me and are original cosponsors of my legislation, which has been referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources for further consideration.
Goodlatte continued, "Virginians understand that a major component in lessening energy costs is to produce more energy. In addition to helping us become energy independent, this legislation will help create thousands of jobs for Virginians and infuse the Commonwealth with new capital growth."
To move America toward energy independence we need a comprehensive and strategic plan that increases the supply, security and diversity of American energy, promotes conservation and puts real alternative fuel sources in the hands of consumers to lower costs. We must lift the moratorium on drilling along the Outer Continental Shelf and open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for drilling, potentially producing nearly a million barrels of oil a day. We must diversify our energy supplies with alternative sources, including renewable fuels and wind, solar and hydrogen power. But we must do so without the government mandates and subsidies that are today driving up the cost of food and animal feed due to producing ethanol from corn. We should develop a renewable policy where the government incentivizes the development of new technologies but does not mandate the use of any particular fuel like corn-based ethanol which drives up food costs for consumers. Finally we should encourage the production of more nuclear power which provides CO2 emission-free energy.