Virginia’s U.S. senators have introduced a bill to allow offshore energy leases off the coast of Virginia.
Democrats Mark R. Warner and Timothy M. Kaine introduced The Virginia Outer Continental Shelf Energy Production Act of 2013 on Wednesday.
Warner has introduced similar legislation the past two years. Sales of leases off the Virginia coast were scheduled to begin in 2011 but were delayed until 2017 after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.
The Sierra Club of Virginia opposes the legislation. In a statement, the club said offshore drilling would risk more than 100,000 jobs in industries that depend on a healthy ocean and Chesapeake Bay and clean beaches.
Warner and Kaine want the moratorium lifted so that decades-old maps of Virginia’s offshore energy resources can be updated and leases for offshore gas and oil drilling as well as wind farms can go into effect in 2020.
“Our legislation includes appropriate environmental protections and an equitable formula for sharing revenues between the state and federal governments,” Warner said. “I believe that changes in the membership of the Senate after the 2012 elections have helped to produce a potentially more supportive atmosphere for our legislation.”
Kaine said if the moratorium on offshore drilling is lifted, Virginia will have the opportunity to become a leader in offshore energy exploration.
If leases are sold in Virginia’s waters, Warner and Kaine have included provisions that would split revenue from the leases between the federal government and the commonwealth.
Warner said of Virginia’s 50 percent share 12.5 percent would be earmarked for environmental conservation efforts, with the remaining 37.5 percent would be put into the state’s general fund.