U.S. Department of Interior Announces Proposed 2012-2017 Offshore Oil and Gas Program, Omitting Area off Virginia’s Coast

On November 8, 2011, U.S. Interior Secretary Kenneth Salazar announced the proposed 2012-2017 Offshore Oil and Gas Development Program, the program that determines what offshore areas will be available for leases to explore for and develop petroleum and natural gas deposits.  The areas available for possible lease sales through 2017 include 12 areas in the Gulf of Mexico and three areas off the coast of Alaska.  As the Interior Department had previously announced (in a December 2010 statement by Secretary Salazar), the proposed 2012-2017 program does not include Lease Sale 220, a 2.9-million acre off the coast of Virginia that—prior to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill in 2010—had been a priority area for exploration in 2011 or 2012.  According to the Interior Department’s news release, the proposed 2012-2017 program “will be open for significant public comment before a final draft is submitted to Congress and the president.”  Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell and U.S. Senators Mark Warner and James Webb called on President Obama to reconsider the postponement of leasing the area off Virginia, and Sens. Warner and Webb have sponsored legislation (S.1331, The Virginia Outer Continental Shelf Energy Production Act of 2011) that would direct the Interior Department to include Lease Sale 220 in the program.  At least two bills in the U.S. House of Representatives call for the same action: H.R. 1372, The Virginia Energy Act, introduced on April 5, 2011, by U.S. Rep. Robert Goodlatte (R-Virginia 6th); and H.R. 1230, The Restarting American Offshore Leasing Now Act, sponsored by Rep. Doc Hastings of Washington and passed by the House on May 5, 2011.  For the status of these bills, visit the Library of Congress’ Thomas Congressional Action Web site at http://thomas.loc.gov/home/thomas.php#, and search by bill number.

Sources:
Secretary Salazar Announces 2012-2017 Offshore Oil and Gas Development Program
, U.S. Department of Interior News Release, 11/8/11

Obama to expand drilling off Alaska, in Gulf , not Va.Associated Press, as published in Virginian-Pilot, 11/8/11

Virginia leaders ask Obama to reconsider offshore drilling
, Newport News Daily Press, 11/8/11

U.S. delays drilling off Virginia’s coast to at least 2017
, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 11/9/11

Governor McDonnell Deeply Critical of Department of the Interior Decision to Exclude Virginia from Five-Year Offshore Oil Exploration Plan
, Virginia Governor’s Office News Release, 11/8/11.

Webb, Warner push to start offshore oil and gas exploration, Virginian-Pilot, 7/7/11

Va. congressman seeks oil, gas drilling off coast, Virginian-Pilot, 4/6/11

U.S. House votes to speed drilling off Va.’s coast, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 5/6/11

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