- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Sens. Jim Webb and Mark Warner have introduced legislation to lift a moratorium on drilling off the Virginia coast enacted by President Obama after last year’s oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico.

The bill from the Virginia Democrats would allow oil and natural gas exploration and production and direct half of any leasing revenues to be paid to Virginia to support a range of projects including land and water conservation, clean energy development, transportation and other infrastructure improvements in the state.

Virginia was set to become one of the first East coast states to drill offshore for oil and natural gas. But after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in April 2010, spewing millions of gallons of oil into the gulf, Mr. Obama pulled the plug on a lease sale planned for 2012.

“Opening up and expanding Virginia’s offshore resources to responsible natural gas and oil exploration holds significant promise for boosting needed domestic energy production, while bolstering the commonwealth’s economy,” Mr. Webb said.

The U.S. will import almost 10 million barrels a day of crude oil and refined petroleum products in 2011, which is about half of all U.S. fuel consumption, according to forecasts by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

“We should not be sending hundreds of billions of dollars each year to oil-producing countries that do not like us,” Mr. Warner said. “Senator Webb and I firmly believe that Virginians should benefit from any energy resources that are developed off of our coast, and our legislation specifically requires the federal government to make reasonable royalty payments to the Commonwealth.”