The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Will DOI Delay Virginia's Offshore Drilling?

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted January 28, 2010

There's a lot to like about the planned Virginia offshore lease sale. It's believed the leasing area could contain 130 million barrels of oil and 1.14 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

If energy companies are allowed to develop this offshore energy, they could create about 2,600 jobs, make about $8 billion in capital investments and generate $271 million in Virginia state and local taxes, providing a huge boost to the Commonwealth's economy.

With economic benefits of that magnitude hanging in the balance, news reports stating that the Interior Department would delay the lease sale triggered strong responses from Virginia's officials yesterday. Gov. Bob McDonnell said his office hadn't been informed of the delay, adding, "Any delay beyond 2011, I would strongly oppose."

Gov. McDonnell, who gave the Republican response to Pres. Obama's State of the Union speech last night, also said:

"Here in Virginia, we have the opportunity to be the first state on the East Coast to explore for and produce oil and natural gas offshore. But this administration's policies are delaying offshore production..."

Virginia's two Democratic senators also weighed in yesterday by sending a letter to Interior Sec. Ken Salazar. Sens. Jim Webb and Mark Warner said:

"We believe the time has come... [to go] forward with Lease Sale 220 in a more expedited manner... [It] will attract well-paying jobs to the Commonwealth to support a range of projects..."

According to Reuters, an official from Interior's Minerals Management Service (MMS) announced the delay at an offshore workshop last week. He said leasing would occur in 2012 at the earliest.

But late last night, after the president called for offshore energy development in his speech, Associated Press reported that a second MMS official said "no decision has been made to delay" the planned 2011 Virginia lease sale. She said MMS is reviewing the lease sale, and Interior Sec. Salazar would announce his decision soon.

Interesting. Does this mean the announcement of the delay was premature? As I've written on this blog, delaying the Virginia lease sale certainly would be consistent with the Department's actions during the past year.


Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.